The global COVID-19 pandemic is over and most of the people who caught it during the first wave recovered long ago.

However, one place where recovery isn’t evident is at Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA), where, in terms of passengers using the airport, the numbers haven’t recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

 Though the pandemic is a distant memory, new statistics that just came out this week for calendar year 2023, show that the number of flyers using the airport still hasn’t surpassed the pre-COVID number.

What makes that so disappointing is that everything else at the airport is going swimmingly. Renovations have been made to the terminal, the parking decks, and the runways, and the 1,000-plus acre aviation megasite at PTIA is a raging success that’s drawn a lot of commercial business to the area.

On Tuesday, Jan. 23, the seven-member Piedmont Triad Airport Authority – the board that oversees the airport’s operations – got the same story for 2023 that they’ve heard before.  That passenger traffic is hard to get back.

The number of passengers was up 10 percent in December 2023 over December 2022 and up 12 percent for 2023 over 2022.

However, despite those increases, 2023 didn’t generate more passenger traffic than 2019 – the last year before the pandemic hit the US.

The stats show that the number of passengers for December 2023 versus 2019 was down 20 percent.

In other stats released by airport staff Tuesday…

 • Cargo at PTIA was down 17 percent in December 2023 from December 2022 and down 19 percent year to date. Cargo for November 2023 versus 2019 was up 13 percent.

• The total number of seats scheduled for departing PTIA in March 2024 is 94,808, down 4 percent from March 2023.

• The “load factor” – that is, the average percentage of airplane seats departing from PTIA that were filled with passengers – was 79 percent in October 2023, which is 6 percentage points lower than October 2022 and roughly the same as October 2019.