JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – New numbers show the jobless rate in Jacksonville is now at its lowest point since the coronavirus pandemic began, but the loss of jobs is still causing major concerns.
For example, at Jacksonville International Airport, the restaurants took a big hit. In March, 190 people were temporarily furloughed. Now, they could lose their jobs permanently, as travel has not picked back up in recent months.
In the main lobby in the airport, just before security, many of the food stands and restaurants are closed, although some after security are open.
Most of the restaurants are managed by HMSHost. In March, the company furloughed bartenders, waitstaff, supervisors, management and many others.
Now, the company has informed the airport and the mayor’s office with a notice that those furloughs could become permanent.
In a letter to the city, HMSHost wrote: “Never in the history of aviation and the hospitality industry have we experienced such catastrophic customer traffic decline.”
The letter goes on to say HMSHost believed things would be better by now. The letter says if travel does not improve in two months (by Oct. 15), those 190 furloughed employees will be let go permanently.
HMSHost has been providing furloughed employees with benefits and allowed them to take paid time off. Now, the company says without an upsurge in travel, that will end in October.
For travelers, the idea of empty airports without somewhere to take a break is a concern. Many — like Paula Watts, who was traveling to Jacksonville from Nashville on Thursday — say they are concerned about those employees, as well.
“That is heartbreaking,” Watts said. “I wish there were a way we could figure out to keep them and regain employment and get some sense of normalcy.”
Airport management at the Jacksonville Aviation Authority say it’s working with HMSHost, which is under contract with the airport, and hopes to keep portions open and available for travelers.