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December 29, 2016

Another record-breaking year at Logan Airport

Antonio Caban/State House News Service Zach Williams, whose family helped break a passenger record at Terminal C, cut into a cake with Massport CEO Tom Glynn in celebration of the milestone at Logan International Airport on Wednesday.

For the sixth year in a row, Logan International Airport has broken passenger records, celebrating passenger number 36 million of the year on Wednesday.

Logan handled just fewer than 29 million passengers in 2011 and has seen a uptick every year since, according to a chart displayed by the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Boston's airport.

At the airport on Wednesday, Massport Director of Aviation Ed Freni said about 2.5 million more passengers passed through Logan in 2016 than a year before.

While the number of passengers has shot upwards, over the last 10 to 15 years the number of flights per day has fallen from about 1,500 to around 1,200, according to Massport CEO Tom Glynn. Planes flying in and out of Logan are generally bigger today and more crowded, according to Massport.

Glynn said that "in theory" the reduction in flights means the airport has the capacity for an additional 300 flights per day, but said, "That's not necessarily a goal that we have."

Logan's two main challenges are expanding Terminal E to accommodate more international flights and adding parking, Glynn said. International flights make up about 15 percent of the total at Logan, he said.

Massport feted the milestone at Terminal C on Wednesday, where JetBlue airplanes bound for Richmond, Virginia, and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, stood at their gates.

Retired U.S. Air Force Capt. Virginia Williams and her family represented the 36 millionth passenger at Wednesday's ceremony.

Danielle Sandars, who works in corporate communications for JetBlue, offered the four-member Williams family a free roundtrip on JetBlue wherever they want to go.

"Wow," said Jim Williams. The couple and their two children were heading to Richmond to visit "gramma," said Virginia Williams, who said she was a computer programmer in the Air Force, working at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma and Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts. The family lives in Chelmsford.

Freni gave the family two gift certificates for $100 each, he said. Virginia Williams said she received a phone call Tuesday night as a "heads up" about the ceremony, and said, "We had to be sure to be here on time."

"They were planning to go on a vacation, kind of anonymously," Glynn said, before the family and other passengers were served cake to mark the occasion.

Sandars said JetBlue has expanded at Logan from 30 crew members a dozen years ago to 3,200 crew members today, and the airline, which is now the biggest operator out of Logan, will be offering flights to Atlanta starting in March.

As city and state officials seek to attract business to Massachusetts, Logan's proximity to downtown Boston and other economic hubs is a selling point.

In the successful effort to lure General Electric to establish its headquarters in Boston, Logan's location was part of the pitch, according to the Office of Housing and Economic Development.

Massport claims Logan generates more than $13 billion in economic activity each year, serving 53 international and 75 domestic destinations.

The 36 million passengers moving through Logan in 2016 is a figure more than five times greater than the Massachusetts population of 6.8 million people.

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