ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) Abilene Regional Airport is working to get the numbers of flights and flight passengers to what they were before the pandemic. during the pandemic, restrictions majorly reduced travel, and the airport lost nearly 93% of their regular number of passengers. Businesses were not flying, and this affected the airport in many different ways.
“When passengers drop, we see reduced revenue in our parking lot, which is our largest revenue source, says Don Green, the director of transportation. He says that one of their rental car companies even had to file for bankruptcy.
“So, we saw some significant impacts to our corporate partners, our tenants here, as well as just seeing a lot of reduced activity with passenger in the terminal as well,” Green continues.
What brought them through the pandemic may be surprising. Green says that leisure travel is what really led the industry out of the low point of the pandemic. Even though the pandemic kept many in their homes, it also created a slower airport environment, making it easier for some passengers to travel for leisure.
One passenger even said, “During the pandemic, everyone was quarantined, so there was more space for more flight times.” This passenger flew to see her family whenever she could.
It truly was the lack of business travel that really affected the airport, and Green says that it is going to take businesses traveling again for them to get back to normal. He says that they are slowly gaining more passengers.
“We are down less than 20% from 2019 numbers,” says Green.
They are working to renovate the airport in order to continue this increase, as Green says that they can only “control the environment, the interior of the terminal itself, and just improve that comfort level for our passengers.”
They have already begun this process by adding a restaurant to the airport, Gatehouse Café, and by adding furniture to the terminal with charging stations.
They are continuing to look at other ways to improve the airport, such as restroom upcoming renovations and other renovations to the interior of the terminal that Green hopes will present a more modern and comfortable environment. Still, he is afraid that businesses may not ever fly like they used to because of the virtual meetings available.
“That doesn’t mean that we won’t get back or even exceed those 2019 numbers. It’s just going to take longer, and it might be a little bit of a different flying demographic makeup of our passengers,” Green says.
During the pandemic, they got down to 3 to 4 flights a day. In June of this year, they are planning to have an average of 7 flights a day, which is back to their 2019 number.