FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – Airports around the nation have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Florida’s airports are no exception to the economic downfall.
In addition to large international airports, regional and local airports are reporting a big hit in flight traffic.
The federal government is offering $10 billion in relief for the nation’s airports through the CARES Act.
Florida’s larger airports, like Jax International, are receiving a bigger slice of the pie, but smaller regional airports are also getting some much-needed help.
Normally this time of year, planes from all over fly into Fernandina Beach.
“We may see 5, 10, 15, 20 aircraft coming through here dropping off passengers," said Nathan Coyle, Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport manager.
But now the runways sit quiet and mostly empty.
“Maybe now one airplane a day if we see that," Coyle said.
Coyle said recreational and charter traffic is down 95% in the last month which is on par with the nationwide average. The loss has a ripple effect since Fernandina Beach is a tourist hotspot and many rely on air travel to get there.
“This airport has a $41 million a year economic impact. So not having some of that transient traffic coming through here it’s certainly going to have an impact on the community,” Coyle said.
Fernandina will receive $30,000 in funding through the CARES Act which can be used to continue operations, replace lost revenue and pay for capital expenditures.
- JIA gets more than $28 million
- St. Augustine Regional Airport gets $157,000
- Both Palatka and Hilliard airports get $30,000
“They do that based on level of infrastructure investment development costs are projected within a five-year period, and of course size and activity of airports and they make a split where they actually based on commercial service airports and smaller airports split that money out and provide assistance," Coyle said.
The funding will help replace lost revenue due to the sharp decline in passenger traffic but also in other airport businesses such as skydiving, sightseeing tours and maintenance work.
Airports Council International, which represents airports globally, estimates airports in the United States will lose nearly $14 billion due to the pandemic.