Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA) has had a very rough 2020.

Now, with the weather getting colder and new spikes in coronavirus cases in Guilford County and across the country, greater problems could loom for the airport at a time of year when it usually sees a great deal of holiday travel.

On Tuesday, Oct. 27, the airport released its most recent passenger stats – those for the month of September – and, like those in other reports this year, the numbers don’t paint a pretty picture.

According to the new report from PTIA, the number of passengers flying in and out of the airport in September 2020 was down 70 percent from September 2019.   That’s an ugly stat, but to understand the full significance of what the coronavirus pandemic has cost the airport, it’s important to realize that, before the pandemic, PTIA was seeing a steady yearly growth in passenger traffic. That prior growth makes a 70 percent drop even harder to take for airport officials.

For the first nine months of 2020, passenger traffic was down 63 percent compared with that same period in 2019.

After the pandemic hit Guilford County, PTIA implemented an extensive plan to maintain passenger safety. It included mass sanitation efforts, temperature checks, social distancing in lines and limiting certain areas only to passengers with tickets. Those moves were meant to keep people safe and restore confidence, but, if people are afraid to fly, those measures don’t matter much.

Cargo flights in the month of September were also down at PTIA when compared to last year, but not by as much as passenger use. In September 2020, the number of cargo flights was down 24 percent compared to flights in that same month last year. Year to date, that number was down 28 percent.