Portland, Maine, and Manchester, N.H., don’t have as much of a rivalry as they should. Both are the biggest cities in their similarly-sized state (both are “queen cities”, the term for a state’s biggest city that isn’t the capital), and they’re just close enough but just far enough away to have cousin-like jealously and interaction.

Manchester is larger in population (100K vs 66K, roughly) but Portland is a more dominant force in its state’s economy and personality, because in N.H., Nashua and greater Portsmouth on the Seacoast are closer rivals for economy and public attention than anything in Maine is to Portland.

Thanks to an editor’s update on wikipedia, I found a new source of conflict: Airport passenger numbers. In 2018, Portland had 1.06 million passengers while Manchester had 909,500 – that’s the first time Portland has ever passed Manchester, at least as far back as the federal DOT database shows.

Manchester’s passenger numbers have been falling since a peak in 2005 (see my latest story here), but Portland has been mostly rising. They fell after the 2008 recession but not by very much and starting rebounding after 2012, while Manchester’s just kept falling. Through May of this year the pattern continues: Portland is running about 10% higher than Manchester (370K vs. 334K)

My guess as to why: Portland is just far enough away from Boston that it has been less affected by airline’s shift back from regional to metro airports.

Year: Portland – Manchester

2017: 934,127 – 967,539

2015: 857,474 – 1.02 million

2012: 786,903 – 1.2 million

2008: 874,000 – 1.8 million

2005: 732,000 – 2.13 million (Manchester’s all-time high)

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