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Killeen Regional Airport adapts to 'new normal,' United Airlines departure

Posted at 6:13 PM, Nov 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-01 08:00:55-05

The COVID-19 pandemic took a major toll on the airline industry but since more people have gotten vaccinated, more people are booking flights.

"The vaccines that have come out, you know. Again, the precautions that people take with wearing masks, we’ve gotten used to that now, that’s our new normal,” said Carson Pearce, director of the Aviation Program at Texas A&M Central Texas.

The new normal is a trend that officials at the Killeen Regional Airport say has them operating better than ever.

"In fact, we were one of the first small regional airports to come out of the pandemic. Since May, we’ve actually been doing better than the numbers we did in 2019," said Mike Wilson, executive director of aviation for the City of Killeen.

But, just as Killeen regional airport bounced back, United Airlines announced that they will be suspending operations at their location.

It is something experts say was not a surprise given the effects of the pandemic.

"The Killeen to Houston leg that United was flying, was not a very heavy route to begin with anyway. So cost-cutting measures had to be implemented by the airlines,” said Pearce.

Now Killeen is going to be left with a void to fill when United pulls out at the end of the year, but there is hope in the air.

"We’re continuously working and visiting with airlines. We've had some very serious conversations over the past year with several and we will continue to do that,” said Wilson.

Officials with the airport feel confident that United's departure won’t have much of an impact given that they averaged one to two flights from Killeen a day and the fact that most of their traffic comes from Fort Hood.

"Either soldiers traveling in small groups, defense department contractors, or dependents; in one form or another, we estimate 55 to 60 percent of our travel is Fort Hood related,” said Wilson.

More people are traveling again and even though United is pulling out of Killeen, the airport looks to be in good shape for the future.