WACO, Texas — The Waco Regional Airport is set to receive more than $15 million in CARES Act funding after losing a large swath of revenue due to the global pandemic.
In 2020, the airport saw a 74% decrease in the number of passengers on commercial flights. Nationwide, the TSA reports about 500 million fewer passengers traveled by air in 2020 compared to 2019.
In 2019, Waco Regional reached a deal with American Airlines to increase the number of commercial fights from the airport to six per day.
However, when the pandemic hit in March, that number quickly dropped to one per day. While the number of people flying is slowly rising again, the airport still only has four to five commercial flights per day.
"We'll never be "normal" again," Director of Aviation Joel Martinez said. "I think that it's gonna be a new normal, and we're gonna have to accommodate, adjust and evolve into what that looks like."
According to Martinez, the airport did not have to let go of any staff members, despite losing nearly 80% of revenue.
"We're not a very large airport, so our airport staff is not very large in numbers," he said. "So, we've been fortunate in that regard to maintain what we already have."
Martinez said the negative impacts were inflated even more because several events in Waco were canceled. He added that Baylor sporting events bring in several visitors on the weekends.
"During football season and basketball season, especially the one we're having now, we would see attendance of people traveling to Waco to watch those games," he said. "Now, we have limited capacity, so those people are no longer traveling."
The airport plans to use the $15 million to offset operating costs and make some much-needed improvements.
Original plans include a remodel of the terminal's bathrooms, baggage claim area and other details like counter space.
The money will also be used to fund a refurbished passenger loading bridge and a new hangar complex for corporate planes.
"It allows us to do projects that were going to be driven by revenues that were put on hold," Martinez said.
The renovations will be the first major face-lift to the airport since the 1990s.
While vaccinations are underway, COVID-19 is continuing to spread across the country. Aiding in that spread is travelers.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says travel can increase your chance of contracting and spreading the virus. The best way to protect yourself is to stay home as much as you can.
However, if you do decide to travel, the CDC has listed several tips.
For the do's and don'ts of travel, click here.