Cutbacks hitting regional airports and surrounding communities hard

Washington D.C. Bureau

WASHINGTON D.C. (WCMH) — The number of people starting to fly again is slowly creeping up even as several airlines announced continued cutbacks on where they fly.

When the pandemic paralyzed air travel in March, airlines quickly cut service and regional airports felt the impact first.

“They matter for business travelers, they matter for all travelers, they create wealth in a community,” said Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown.

Brown says it’s about more than just the airlines because cutbacks at the airport hit hotels, restaurants and other industries.

“We’re going to see all kinds of businesses pay and communities are going to pay even more in the end,” he said.

Ed Mortimer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the ripple affects from air service cutbacks to regional airports could last for years.

“It’s harder to participate in the global economy when you lose such air service,” Mortimer said.

He praised efforts by the federal government to help small airports with money from the CARES Act.

“Those are good to make sure those airports are maintained well, but again without the service it’s not going to be helpful,” he said.

On Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced more than a billion dollars in grant money is going toward airports, in particular regional ones.

“This federal assistance goes directly to airports in rural America,” Chao said.

The money covers everything from capital improvements to employee payroll and is similar to other grants released earlier this year.

“Small and middle-sized airports are very important to ensuring that rural passengers are able to get to where they go,” she said.

The money won’t bring the flights back, but Chao says it will help keep the airports ready for better economic times.

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