Sioux Falls airport saw 95% drop in passengers in April; may take years to recover


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — What’s it like at the Sioux Falls airport right now? The parking lot sits nearly empty and there’s been a 95% drop in the number of passengers for the month of April.

The Sioux Falls airport, which has set records for passenger numbers in recent years, is like a ghost town.

“Of course right now with 10 to 50 people in the airport at a time, there’s not a lot of requirement for social distancing,” Airport Deputy Director Richard King said.

During the time our news cameras were inside the terminal we only saw about 20 passengers, including Nick Bersch.

The Sioux Falls Regional Airport on Friday

“I think it’s as safe as going to the grocery store,” Bersch said.

Bersch has flown regularly throughout the pandemic from his home in the Chicago area to Burke, South Dakota, where he is the project manager of the new school.

“The price of the flights are way down. It’s about half of what I used to pay to fly home–that’s one advantage,” Bersch said.

But it’s nothing like what he was used to.

“It’s very strange. I used to have to park all the way in the back when I got here and now I can pretty much get right up front and walk straight over,’ Bersch said.

There are currently more than 1,300 spaces in long-term parking open.

“For every passenger that does not fly through here–they don’t buy that bottle of soda; they don’t pay for that day of parking, and that hurts us. That hurts significantly,” King said.

The number of available parking spots at Sioux Falls Regional Airport on Friday

The Sioux Falls Regional Airport is predicting a $5 million cut in revenue for the year. It does qualify for up to $22.5 million federal grant money over the course of several years. The airport’s deputy director says recovery won’t happen overnight.

“If we can be back to our prior levels in the next two to three years; that for us is an optimistic expectation,” King said.

Meanwhile, it’s preparing to meet new federal guidelines as passenger numbers slowly increase.

Whether there’s going to be some health screenings at the airport, whether there’s going to be some social distancing expectations, whether we have markers on the floor for trying to maintain six-foot distances, plexiglass barriers, things like that.”

Richard King, Sioux Falls Regional Airport Deputy Director, on flying in the months to come

Bersch keeps a mask handy in his carry-on luggage. While it’s not mandatory right now, most airlines will begin requiring passengers to wear masks on flights starting next week

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