Buried in the latest batch of statistical reports put out each month by Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA) is hard evidence of a mysterious phenomenon.
The amount of mail coming in and out of PTIA in December of 2020 skyrocketed. In fact, in December of 2020, more than 10 times as much mail was brought into PTIA as in December of 2019.
Toward the end of each month, the airport releases key stats for the previous month – covering things like cargo loads and passenger traffic. While the airport provides a few key stats in the public statements it issues, the airport’s internal reports offer much more detailed breakdowns of those headline numbers. Mail is one of the subcategories of cargo tracked.
When the Rhino Times asked PTIA Executive Director Kevin Baker why there was so much mail coming through the airport these days, Baker said he had wondered the same thing.
“Yep, I had the same reaction,” Baker said.
The overall mail numbers for 2020 were up nearly 600 percent compared to 2019, and, for December, the airport had over 10 times as much mail being taken off the planes at PTIA.
In December 2019, 41,041 pounds of mail were deplaned at PTIA. In December 2020, 427,709 pounds of mail were taken off the planes.
Baker said no one is quite certain what’s causing the spike but he was willing to put forth some potential theories.
“It could be that one of the freight carriers got a new contract with USPS and is moving more mail,” he said, suggesting one possible option.
He added, “But most likely it’s a combination of two reasons. First, all shipping is up during the pandemic. People are ordering things and having them shipped. This may well be just the USPS portion of that growth.”
Another factor, he suggested, could be that, since travel to visit relatives was so limited in the 2020 holiday season, people were mailing a lot more gifts than they normally would. Baker said that, in ordinary times, people would bring the gifts with them in their cars when they were “heading off to Grandma’s.”
Baker added that it was “crazy growth” in the mail at the airport, but he’ll take growth anywhere he can get it.
“I’m not complaining,” he said. “We can use it.”
While a great deal of mail is moving through the airport, PTIA is still being hit very hard when it comes to the passenger traffic decline due to the pandemic.