Augusta airports feel the pinch of COVID-19

CSRA News

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – April is always a busy month because of Masters for both Daniel Field and Augusta Regional. However because of COVID-19, business at both airports is slow.

The good news is both airports are going to receive grant money from the Federal Aviation Administration to alleviate some of the financial pain. 

“Six weeks ago or so we had about 22 departures and arrivals into Augusta. And now we’re down to, on most days, we’re down to about four, five flights a day,” said Augusta Regional Airport Executive Director Herbert Judon Jr.

Flights have been cut about 70% at Augusta Regional. Traffic has decreased by more than 90%.

Judon explained, “The numbers that we’re seeing here locally are reflective of pretty much of everything we’re seeing around the country in commercial traffic. So we’re down about 90-95% less than what we were a year ago this time.”

At Daniel Field, a spokesperson told us business is down about 75%. Although medical flights are still arriving and departing. 

Becky Shealy with Augusta Aviation Inc. said, “If you’re an organ donor in the state of Georgia, we are one of the air carrier providers that will fly the doctors, the nurses, and the coordinators to a remote location. If someone is an organ donor, recover the organs and the majority of them go back to the Atlanta area,” said Becky Shealy.

Full-time staff at Daniel Field and Augusta Regional have not been cut. But at Augusta Regional, some temporary employees have been furloughed.

“Initially we had a lot of companies implemented travel restrictions and then we had some travel advisories initiated by the federal government. And then the shelter-in-place orders by several other states so it’s been kind of a trickle-down effect over the last month. And it’s been pretty devastating on airports and aviation,” said Judon.

Last week, the FAA announced it would award $10 billion to commercial and general aviation airports from the $2.2 trillion COVID-19 response package. More than $410 million is being awarded to Georgia airports while about $97 million will go to airports in South Carolina.

Daniel Field is set to receive $69,000. 

“They’re looking to get the stuff, the money, dispersed as quickly as possible to kind of help with the hemorrhaging but it’s probably going to be May before we see any of it,” said Shealy.

Augusta Regional will receive a little over $19 million from the FAA to maintain operations during this ongoing pandemic. 

“We’re going to use some of the money for certain infrastructure projects. Especially projects we think help elevate us once the COVID-19 is over. Or projects that will help us in terms of future revenue generation. And then some of the money we’ll kind of put away for a rainy day to make sure we’re able to sustain our operations in case this is prolonged for a long period of time,” said Judon.

Judon added it may take years or at least months for airports and airlines to back to normal.

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