SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — After months of almost no air travel, the Sioux Falls Regional Airport is starting to see some slow increases in travelers. While the airport has taken a major hit in revenue, the drop in passengers has also meant a huge loss in business for the rental car industry.
“I travel weekly,” Industrial Engineer Ryan Wood said.
Wood is one of the few business travelers who has continued traveling around the region throughout the pandemic.
“I’ve had my own private jet a few times now,” Wood said.
He not only depends on flights to get him to his different projects, but also rental cars.
“It’s very important, I need a rental car to get to the site, otherwise I can’t do my job,” he said.
While he uses a rental car five days a week, he says the process has changed a lot over the past two months.
“It’s a lot easier; get in get out, there’s cars available, you don’t have to wait for them to get done cleaning them, they’re usually out there clean ready to go,” Wood said.
“There are well over 800 cars here that normally would be out for rent” Sioux Falls Regional Airport Executive Director Dan Letellier said. “Some of these are brand new cars off the factory floor that haven’t even been driven yet.”
Letellier says the contrast in the passenger and car rental parking lots illustrate the issue many rental car companies are facing.
“Last month there were maybe six cars in the short term lot, one day there was one car in the short term lot and maybe 60 cars in the long term lot, where normally they would be full with 2500 cars,” Letellier said.”The economy lot, which we actually closed, so that all the rental cars had a place to store their vehicles.”
And while May has brought a slow increase in travelers.
“We’re close to 400 people a day, that’s up from about 50 people a day in April, so its ticking up, but we should be up to about 1700 people a day flying out now,” Letellier said.
Letellier said there’s still a long way to go to make up for the major losses both the airport and the rental car industry are facing.
“Our revenues are 95 percent down from where they should be the last couple months, they’re in the same boat. They rely more on the business travelers that are coming to town and that’s certainly dried up, and will take a long time to rebound.”
Hertz national recently declared bankruptcy, but Letellier said the one at the Sioux Falls airport is a local franchise that is not impacted by that restructuring. However, many Sioux Falls rental companies have had to temporarily lay off some staff.