The Piedmont Triad Airport Authority heard the holiday passenger statistics for Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA) this week.
There are some green shoots of life coming back to air travel in and out of PTIA, but the traffic at the airport has a long way to go before it gets back to the 2019 pre-pandemic numbers.
In 2020, PTIA has taken a large number of measures to help keep travelers at the airport safe during the coronavirus crisis. However, regardless of the changes, the airport still has the recalcitrant problem that many, many people have no desire to fly during a pandemic.
Those fears were reflected once again in PTIA’s passenger numbers for November.
Compared with November of last year, the number of people getting on and off of planes at PTIA was down 69 percent last month. As for the passenger traffic year-to-date number, which covers from January through the end of November of 2020, it was down 64 percent compared with 2019.
There was one positive in the new statistics: Due to more people shopping online and other considerations, the number of cargo flights at the airport in November was up 4 percent over that same month in 2019. However, year-to-date, the number of cargo flights was still down 22 percent compared to last year.
Due to ongoing airline schedule changes, the number of flights and seats for January 2021 aren’t being projected as they would be in normal times.
PTIA Executive Director Kevin Baker said that the new numbers are disappointing but are like the ones being seen across the nation.
“The November passenger numbers, while still really low, are reflective of the whole industry – about 70 percent off of last year,” he said.
He called the stats “really bad,” and added, “I’m afraid it’s going to get worse before it starts to get better. We’re already seeing some weakening since Thanksgiving. COVID cases are too high right now and it’s slowing down what was already a very slow ‘Nike Swoosh’ recovery curve.”
On a more positive note, Baker said he was thrilled to see the first same-month year-over-year improvement in the airport’s freight numbers.
“December will be even stronger with significant step function growth from FedEx this month,” Baker added in regard to cargo.