Fewer people flew out of Bradley International Airport last year, according to preliminary data from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The data, released Monday, showed that 2.64 million people stepped onto a plane at the Windsor Locks airport, New England’s second largest. That number was down 4.52 percent from 2011, when the airport sent off 2.77 million passengers.
Bradley’s drop was lower than that of its cohort of medium-sized airports, which dropped 1.54 percent from 2011 to 2012. Though traffic declined, the magnitude of the loss was slightly smaller than in previous years, when those declines measured 5 percent to 12 percent, at its worst in 2009.
“We’ve been in the downturn,” said airport spokesman John Wallace, adding that in recent months passenger numbers were up a few percent.
He said that the numbers were impacted by the decision of carriers like Southwest to pull service to Philadelphia, one of the Northeast’s busiest airports, from a number of New England airports. In addition, airlines have been running jets with smaller capacities.
“We’re hoping to continue to reverse that trend,” Wallace said.
The overall passenger totals, which measure the number of people getting on airplanes, supported what many experts see as a move in the industry toward large hubs, like Boston Logan International Airport, whose numbers increased slightly in the same period. The airline industry has had it rough in recent years, with a number of mergers, high fuel prices, and travelers with less money to spend.
Last year, the nationwide number of passengers rose 0.89 percent to 731.13 million in 2012, from 724.86 million the year prior.
Medium and smaller hubs, Bradley included, have logged fewer flights with fewer seats in recent years, according to a study released in May by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“Instead of operating as many flights as possible in an attempt to gain market share, large airlines began a more efficient capacity and network management paradigm in an attempt to reduce operating costs by removing redundant flying and rationalizing service at some smaller hubs,” the study said.
The large hubs averaged a 1.70 percent increase in outgoing passengers, according to the federal numbers.
Fewer passengers also left from Tweed New Haven Regional Airport last year. The airport, categorized as a non-hub, saw 36,971 passengers in 2012, down 7.74 percent from 2011 when the airport sent off 40,074.
Preliminary annual passenger totals are released in July, with final numbers due in September.\
By Brian Dowling, Hartford Courant