The airline industry has taken a hit due to COVID-19, and that includes airports locally.
The latest data from Airlines for America, a group representing major North American airlines, says that airports have seen a drop in on-board passengers per flight, both domestically and internationally. In early March, numbers were well over 100, while, as of early May, numbers are less than 40. Locally, airport leaders have seen the hit as well.
Shawn Dobberstein, executive director of Fargo’s Hector International Airport, just over 1,500 people purchased tickets for airlines in April 2020, compared to more than 35,400 in April 2020, a decrease of more than 95 percent. The decrease at Fargo’s airport is consistent with other airports in the country, as most airports are down slightly more than 95 percent, Dobberstein says.
“It appears that this will be the norm for the next number of months,” he says.
Other data affirms the decrease. The Transportation Safety Administration, or TSA, says their screenings were down to 90,000 people per day earlier this month.
Major airlines are being affected, as well.
Allegiant Air, one of five major airlines that offer direct flights from Fargo, has drastically reduced its number flights, down to 1-2 flights per week to Mesa, Ariz. Mesa is one of five locations that Allegiant flies to regularly.
The United States Department of Transportation requires all airlines to maintain 19 flights per week, which Dobberstein says the Fargo airport is able to do. But, instead of Fargo’s normal of 22 to 25 flights per day, the airport is seeing three to six flights per day. Dobberstein says he doesn’t see a quick rebound, either.
“It’s going to be a slow return to service,” he said.
One thing airports across the nation are trying to do is create a standardized operations plan, so that each airport will conduct operations in the same manner, in some aspects. Dobberstein says airports across the nation are looking for “some consistency,” and a standardized operations plan will help to achieve the consistency.
Revenues are also suffering.
“We’re nearly at zero revenue,” Dobberstein says. The airport’s revenues come from parking and car rental fees.