Yeager Airport officials project one-fifth of normal passenger rate in new budget

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Yeager Airport is projecting 20 percent of its normal passenger rate for the fiscal year 2020-2021 that begins July 1.

Those numbers were reflected in its pending budget, which the airport’s finance committee voted to recommend to the board for adoption on Thursday.

The board could approve the budget at its meeting on June 24 that includes a $10 million operating budget with $18 million in capital improvements planned.

Airport Director Nick Keller told MetroNews the budget is based on a flatline of 150 people flying per day. Overall, the airport is projecting 56,000 passengers from July 1 to June 30, 2021, compared to an average year of 225,000.

“We are trying to be really conservative with the revenue estimates just because if there is a second wave of COVID-19 or a shutdown in the winter, we just don’t know,” Keller said.

Nick Keller

In mid-April, West Virginia’s largest airport saw record lows in passenger travel with 10-20 passengers per day compared to an average of 750. Keller said in June, the airport is seeing 115-120 passengers per day.

Keller said the downturn in passenger rate effects airline rates, charges and landing fees but that is where the airport’s CARES Act money will come into play. Yeager received $4.8 million in federal relief in which Keller said the airport will use to backfill any losses in the budget.

He projected the airport using $2.9 million of the CARES Act money in the upcoming fiscal year, keeping the landing fees and rent for airlines the same. Keller said Yeager officials met with its airlines on Thursday including American, Delta, United, and Spirit and all approved the budget.

“This is what it was designed for,” Keller said of the CARES Act money. “It was designed to help airports continue operations and maintain the facility.

“We have a lot of fixed costs here. To maintain the facility in accordance with the FAA standards and TSA rules.”

Keller added the airport has not had to draw a dime from the federal relief dollars just yet. According to him, the airport lost $380,000 in revenue in April and $125,000 in May, off from March projections of up to $800,000 in losses.

Military offerings for Yeager has helped with the bottom line, he added. The airport will fuel around 100 military aircraft by the end of June.

“We are fueling quite a bit of military aircraft now,” Keller said. “That has really helped with the bottom line because we make money on fuel sales. We are not entirely dependent on airline revenue now.”

The airport eliminated 12 positions during the pandemic but has not had to lay anyone off. There will also be no across the board pay raises for employees during the next fiscal year.

The capital improvements happening during the fiscal year include $10 million in passenger facility charge projects, terminal rehabilitation, new jet bridges, renovating the restrooms and the terminal building, taxiway construction and rehabilitation, and drainage repairs.

The US Customs building remains on track to be built in the fall totaling $2.4 million and the Marshall aviation school construction remains on schedule to begin this summer.

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