Airport travel falls among the COVID-19 pandemic

KELOLAND.com Original

FIE – In this Feb. 5, 2019, file photo a ramp worker guides a Delta Air Lines plane at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. Delta Air Lines says it earned $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter by operating more flights and filling a higher percentage of seats. The financial results beat Wall Street expectations. Delta and other U.S. airlines are enjoying a prolonged period of profitability thanks to steadily rising demand for travel. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)- “March is usually one of the busiest months every year,” Sioux Falls Regional Airport Executive Director Dan Letellier said. 

FSD was on pace for a possible record breaking month. The Sioux Falls Regional Airport saw thousands of visitors through the first two weeks of March, but that didn’t last long. 

“The first two weeks in March, we saw a near-record amount of travel,” Letellier said. “The last two weeks of March, we have seen probably a record low of passengers.” 

Currently the Sioux Falls airport is seeing “at least a 90% decrease” according to Letellier. 

This time of year, FSD sees about 1,700-1,800 visitors, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed traffic to around 100 per day. 

The Sioux Falls Regional Airport isn’t the only airport that saw record numbers come crashing down.

The Pierre Regional Airport saw 1,345 passengers in February which was some of their highest numbers since the 1980s. However, much like the rest of the state, Pierre saw a significant decrease in passengers as the COVID-19 outbreak spread across America.

The Aberdeen Regional Airport has seen a 95% decrease in visitors.

“We’ll get one flying in and two flying out or one flying in and three flying out,” Transportation Director Rich Krokel said.

The Aberdeen airport cancelled Wednesday night’s flight as well as Friday and Saturday night’s flights due to the lack of riders.

Aberdeen Regional AirportDown 95%
Rapid City Regional AirportDown 86%
Sioux Falls Regional AirportDown about 94%

The Rapid City Regional Airport has seen limited travel as they are down about 86% from normal travel. 

While April isn’t a super busy month, Rapid City has seen a decrease in flights by more than 4,000 visitors in a week.

The Rapid City Regional Airport saw 4,702 passengers scheduled to depart during this week in 2019. This year, Rapid City has 670 passengers scheduled to depart, which is only 14% of last year’s weekly travel.

The national government helped pass a stimulus bill that would give $10 billion more than 300 airports nationwide.

Letellier says that 90% of airport improvement projects come from the individual airports themselves. The other 10% is given to the airport and usually has a lot of restrictions.

“They are saying this money will have few strings attached meaning that airports could use it for payroll, construction or things like that,” Letellier said.

Krokel says that the stimulus money will be based on 2018 enplanement percentage.

An enplanement percentage is the percentage of passengers that boarded a plane.

The Rapid City Regional Airport is in the same spot as Aberdeen as they know there will be money.

“There will be funding for airports, however, we do not have the exact amounts nor the specific details as to how they will be distributed.  We will be working closely with our Federal Aviation Administration District Office as those funds become available,” Rapid City Regional Airport Deputy Director Toni Broom said.

The FAA will be releasing guidelines and more information in the near future. However, no time table for those guidelines has been released.

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