JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, passenger traffic at Jacksonville International Airport dropped a whopping 95%. That put the brakes on plans for major airport expansion.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic and before people stopped traveling, there were big plans for JAX, but things came to a grinding halt.
Plans were on the drawing board to add a new state-of-the-art terminal, Concourse B. It would have allowed new flights to land and take off at JAX, increase passenger traffic and even include flights to Europe. All of that’s on hold now for at least three years.
“Last year, we set a record,” said Mark VanLoh, CEO of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority. “We were the fastest-growing mid-sized airport in the U.S. So, that’s going to be a tough act to follow. And, like we said, we think it’s going to be about three years before we get back the passenger crowds that we used to have.”
The numbers tell the story. JAX saw the lowest point for passenger traffic between April 12-18 with 2,478 passengers passing through security.
To give you some perspective, from Feb. 16-22, there were 65,286 travelers who went through TSA in Jacksonville. Passenger traffic picked up a bit in mid-May with 10,305 passengers between May 17-23. But that’s still a fraction of what it was.
It’s going to be a while before air travel really rebounds.
“I guess it depends on if we get some kind of solution to this virus,” VanLoh said. “But people are going to be used to hand sanitizing and constantly following the marks on the floor, and staying away from people. And eventually, we will get used to it. You know after 9/11, and all of the security inventions, we got used to that, and people will adapt.”
The focus now at the airport is traveler safety and rebuilding confidence. When that happens and when they get back the flights they’ve lost, they can look toward expansion again.