Huntsville International Airport officials say projections “grim” as COVID-19 interrupts operations

March 18, 2020

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Huntsville International Airport officials say their operations are severely impacted by COVID-19 pandemic.  The monthly numbers have not been reported yet, but other indicators are available and officials say the projections are grim. 

Last week, the airport reported that parking numbers were down approximately 30% as compared to the same week in the previous year.  This week, the parking numbers are down 86% from the same week the previous year. 

The Transportation Security Administration also keeps counts and report that the volume of people coming through the checkpoint is down between 65-70% this week.  All other areas of airport operations like car rental companies, the Four Points by Sheraton hotel, concessions, the airport advertising program, Signature Flight Support (HSV fixed-base operator) and the airlines are seeing large volume decline. 

“At this time Huntsville International Airport is projecting that we will lose 75% of expected revenue in the next 3 months alone,” said Jana Kuner, Huntsville International Airport Public Relations Manager. “That is a $7-$10 million revenue loss in just a matter of 3 months and this loss will continue to grow the longer the pandemic lasts. Because of these projections adjustments have been made to operations and our organization is acting in a mission-critical mode. This means reducing expenses while also continuing to operate the airport as efficiently as possible. We have three top priorities:  1) the safety of our employees and passengers; 2) continuing to serve this community; and 3) preserving jobs.” 

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads and chips away at the U.S. economy, layoffs at Huntsville International are possible.

When 9/11 happened, airports across the U.S. were shut down for days.

“When 9/11 happened, to get us back to pre-9/11 numbers, it was 2004,” said Kuner.

The Airport Council International-North America (ACI-NA) estimates that U.S. commercial airports will lose at least $8.7 billion in calendar year 2020.  This number is based on airlines reducing flights by forty percent.

“Airlines for America has asked the federal government for over $50 billion in financial assistance for airlines and there has been open dialogue and discussion of this, however, the airports are where the airlines operate and just as the airlines are impacted so are the airports”, said Jana Kuner, Huntsville International Airport Public Relations Manager. “ACI-NA and the American Association of Airport Executives have asked that the federal government take immediate steps to ensure that airports also have resources needed to deal with the unprecedented challenges that COVID-19 has posed in the form of $10 billion in emergency assistance.  

“We are also receiving calls from the airlines themselves asking us not to change our fee structure and also asking us to not invoice them for the fees they currently owe,” said Kuner.

The airport can’t cease operation or close the facility so their costs continue and without assistance during this time of extreme economic stress the outlook will be dire.

The CDC and other top U.S. officials are telling people to stay home. However, Kuner says there has not been a travel ban for flights within the U.S.