In light of the events of Sept. 11, what, if any, changes in freight and passenger traffic do you expect in the coming months? What impact do you expect this to have on airport operations?

District Voices

Published November 1, 2001  | November 2001 issue

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For September we're anticipating 60 percent of our normal [passenger] revenue, in October we're projecting 70 percent, 80 percent by November and December, and 90 percent by the first of the year. Our particular [passenger] market is higher because a greater portion of our travel is business and government. There's increased cost because of additional security and reduced revenue. Helena [airport] has a broad-based income; airlines are just 19 percent of our income. The rest comes from federal office buildings, a Wells Fargo check operations center and a pilot training center. I think the airline system is safe and will rebound quickly. Our projections are on the low end.
Ron Merzer, Airport Director
Helena Regional Airport Administration—Helena, Mont.

We've dropped over 20 percent in passenger traffic and have had a number of flights reduced. There's no impact to this airport resulting from freight traffic. Your crystal ball's as good as ours. It'll have more of an impact on our finances and our capital construction budget. We're going to see how long this lasts before canceling next year's projects. Airlines and airports have both had their insurance policies, relating to the hijacking and war-loss sections, greatly reduced or canceled. You can't get coverage. That makes the risk of dealing with those events even more devastating. Requirements for our security are significantly going up.
Tim Thorsen, Operations Manager
Bismarck Municipal Airport—Bismarck, N.D.

Freight is down, but that doesn't impact us that much. The numbers have picked up quicker than I anticipated. October is one of our busiest months and our booking numbers are very good. I do expect passenger travel to be down in the coming months. I strongly believe it'll come back. ... About 50 percent of people who have booked flights are actually showing up for them. I don't have a good feel for what we'll see down the road. We've reduced our six flights to Minneapolis to four. We've increased security and that means an increase in operations.
Brian Ryks, Airport Director
St. Cloud Regional Airport—St. Cloud, Minn.

In the short term, we've lost one flight to Minneapolis, down to six. ... In my opinion, the cuts in flights were premature. We have strong advanced bookings, and the lobby's full of people. We've had 15 percent growth for the past 11 months; all but one were record-breaking. ... It's been a great time, and maybe we're the exception. We don't deal too much in freight right now, but we're looking to attract more business. On the operations side we haven't had much of an effect. I see all these activities with airlines pulling back and I say, 'Come on folks, it's safer to fly now than ever.' ... We haven't had to hire any more security to follow the FAA requirements. We're being creative, low-dollar, low-tech. For the airport here it's been nothing but good news, growth, growth and growth.
Jerome Thiele, Airport Manager
Chippewa Valley Regional Airport—Eau Claire, Wis.

Our passenger service for September was down 60 percent. We have two carriers and lost one flight to Detroit. Getting flights out is troublesome because there are not enough seats for passengers. I predict we'll be down 40 percent in passengers for the rest of this year. Northwest said they'll likely discontinue service here unless they get a subsidy from the government. That would mean we'd be down 75 percent [in passenger traffic]. The economic impact to the community is quite great. Our airport fuels the economy—$21 million per year. That's quite a lot for a town of 14,000. We don't have a whole lot of freight traffic, but we don't expect decreases. The loss of Northwest would probably affect our revenue by 25 percent, I'd guess, which might entail a 25 percent appropriation by the city.
Richard Severson, Airport Manager
Delta County Airport-Escanaba, Mich.

I don't expect freight to change. It's already been down 10 percent to 12 percent before Sept. 11. In September our passenger boardings were down 30 percent compared to September 2000. For October our flight schedule will be down 10 percent, breaking hopefully by December so we'll be even with last year, where we were down 3 percent to 4 percent. I'm not an economist, we know what their [prediction] record is. There's minimal impact on our operations. It'll take slightly longer to get into the terminal. ... I don't think it's going to be as bad as our associations are saying. Our vendors are telling me sales are close to last year. I think we're in a recovery.
Mike Marnach, Executive Director
Sioux Falls Regional Airport—Sioux Falls, S.D.

Note: These interviews occurred after the Sept. 11 attacks, but prior to October's U.S. military actions.