CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Airports around the country continue to be hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and Yeager Airport is no different, reporting a 95 percent decline of passengers in April from previous months.
Yeager Airport Director Nick Keller updated the Charleston airport’s board on how the virus has impacted the facility during its monthly meeting on Wednesday.
He told MetroNews he anticipates a revenue loss of up to $800,000 in April and the same in May.
“What this is turning out to be for the airport is going to be a greater challenge than 9/11 and even the slope failure here just because of the long-term negative consequences. It’ll take a while to build back up,” Keller said.
He expects that “build back up period” to be around one year but noted the airport will receive significant help from the CARES Act. During the meeting the board accepted the CARES Act grant funding through the Federal Aviation Administration which totaled $4,810,956.
Keller said the funding will help the airport “get through the summer and fall” with payroll and operations. Airport leaders have said the steady momentum of enplanement numbers felt late in 2019 and into the early months of 2020 will also help soften the blow of the revenue decline.
During March’s board meeting the airport reported seeing an 86 percent reduction in passengers in late March with around 85 per day compared to the 677 per day in January and February.
In this past week, only 15 to 30 people are flying per day at the airport with two to five flights per day, according to Keller.
Airlines are required to fly under funding received through the CARES Act and Keller said the airport can still take advantage of those near empty flights with landing fees and fuel purchases.
He still expects losses well into the six digits to occur throughout the summer.
“I would expect April and May to be the worse and June to be bad,” Keller said of lost revenue.
“Depending on what happens with things being opened back up and people starting to fly again, I think it’ll be a gradual return to flying.”
On Wednesday, the board also approved a resolution to use part of the CARES Act money for “Hero Pay” for hourly workers. It’s a $4 per hour raise for the next three pay periods for workers such as custodians, line service technicians fueling aircraft, maintenance workers, police officers, and operations staff. The total for the pay is estimated at $45,000.
The airport has not had to lay off any employees.