Tri-Cities Airport sees major decline in passenger load due to coronavirus

Local Coronavirus Coverage

BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL)  – A meeting of the Tri-Cities Airport Authority board sheds new light on how the coronavirus is affecting  flights in the region.

According to a presentation at the meeting, TSA reports show that TRI is averaging 50 to 60 passengers daily.

That’s about a 90% drop in passenger load.

The presentation also revealed that American and Delta have reduced their scheduled capacities by 40% to 60%.

According to comments during the meeting, it appears that Allegiant has not reduced its schedule greatly, the airline is canceling all its flights on a weekly basis.

Funding the airport

Authority members also discussed the $10.3 million grant marked for TRI through the federal CARES Act.

Gary Cossey, the Tri-Cities Airport Authority executive director, said that he had formally submitted the application at this time, but it was not yet assessible.

He indicated that the grant would cover a year and a half of revenue and expenses for the airport if necessary. He said that if revenue bounces back, the money will last longer.

PREVIOUS STORY: Tri-Cities Airport receiving $10.3 million from CARES Act; Elizabethton, Johnson City airports to receive funds

The money is a revenue grant, and can’t be used for capitol projects during a certain time period. However, if money remains after that time, it can go to certain other projects.

According to the authority, the plan is to use the money for expenses and operational needs.

Cossey said during Thursday’s meeting that there are a few airports across the country that are unhappy with what was rewarded.

He told authority members that there are some airports trying to get the money blocked. That includes “one larger airport” in the state of Tennessee.

Cossey said he hadn’t heard anything about major hubs trying to block the money.

Addressing COVID-19 with airport vendors

Cossey told the Tri-Cities Airport Authority board that the rental car companies at the airport had asked if their feeds and payments could be waived due to the coronavirus.

Cossey said he agreed to defer receivables from the companies through July, with the understanding that the money would be paid back in increments in the months following.

He also said a similar arrangement may end up being made with the airlines.

Meanwhile, the airport paid some fees in advance.

Cossey specifically mentioned that they had paid the parking lot management company owed fees for the next three months. He said was done with the understanding that the advance payments were to help the company retain and pay staff.

Changing meetings

Like many other groups, the TCAA board is temporarily changing how it meets.

A motion was made and passed for the board to meet via Zoom monthly or as needed, as quorum allows.

It was not specified for how long the change would last.

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