November 29, 2021

U.S. Airports to Receive $8 Billion to Help Pay Bills as Travel Recovers

U.S. airports are set to receive $8 billion in government grants to help them emerge from the coronavirus pandemic that decimated travel last year.

Air travel is returning, but airports say they are still grappling with lower traffic volumes, high debt payments and new costs stemming from the pandemic.

The grants announced by the Federal Aviation Administration Tuesday, which were included in the $1.9 trillion stimulus package approved in March, will help ease financial burdens until travel fully recovers, airports say.

Airports can use the fresh round of funds to cover operating costs, to pay debt service, or for new expenses related to preventing the spread of disease, like installing air filters or stepping up cleaning practices. Funding levels are based largely on an airport’s 2019 traffic, with some money earmarked to cover rent payments for concessions operators. Airports must also commit to keeping 90% of employees as a condition of accepting the funds.

A waiting area in mid-April at Philadelphia International Airport, where half of the concession businesses remain closed.



Photo:

Marcus Dipaola/NurPhoto/Zuma Press

Leisure travelers have flooded back into airports in recent months. Some 2.1 million people passed through U.S. airport security screening Sunday, the highest number since the pandemic began to decimate air travel in March 2020, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Still, passenger volumes remain about 25% lower than pre-pandemic highs, according to TSA figures. Many international markets have been hobbled by restrictions and business travelers have yet to return en masse. Some airports, particularly those that serve as international gateways, have felt those losses more heavily than others.

Philadelphia International Airport had its best year ever in 2019, serving more than 33 million passengers, said

Chellie Cameron,

the airport’s chief executive. That number dropped to around 11.9 million in 2020, and losses from fiscal years 2020 to 2022 will total almost $500 million, Ms. Cameron said.

“When I say that [the funding] was everything to us, it was everything to us. To people, and to businesses, and to this community,” she said.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

How would you improve your local airport? Join the conversation below.

Some of the $115 million the airport is set to receive under the latest round of grants has been earmarked for concession businesses, half of which remain closed, Ms. Cameron said. The airport has also used previous rounds of funding for debt service and other costs.

Kevin Burke,

chief executive of Airports Council International-North America, an airport trade association, said that airports have recovered considerably this year, averaging about two million passengers a day over the past month compared with between 2.3 million and 2.5 million passengers in 2019.

“It’s been a bit of an uneven recovery,” he said.

As passengers return to air travel in big numbers, the Federal Aviation Administration has reported an uptick in unruly and dangerous behaviors by travelers. WSJ’s Alison Sider explains. Photo: David Zalubowski/AP

Airports in cities that are popular with vacationers, such as Key West, Fla., and Bozeman, Mont., are busier than ever. But scheduled capacity is still down significantly at airports in big cities like New York and San Francisco, according to Cirium, an airline data provider.

Fewer passengers means those airports are bringing in less revenue, including from so-called passenger facility charges that help fund many airport infrastructure projects.

Other sources of income like parking and rental-car revenue also dried up during the pandemic. Airports Council International-North America has estimated that the pandemic’s hit to U.S. airports will total about $40 billion. At the same time, airports are on the hook to pay about $16 billion to service their debt in 2020 and 2021, the group said earlier this year.

The fresh round of aid brings the total government assistance to airports during the pandemic to $20 billion. Airports previously received $10 billion under the Cares Act passed in March 2020 and another $2 billion under another stimulus package passed in December.

Write to Alison Sider at alison.sider@wsj.com

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Related Posts

Nielsen Invests in New TV Ratings Platform After Selling $2.4 Billion Unit

May 24, 2021

May 24, 2021

Nielsen Holdings PLC’s finance chief Linda Zukauckas is allocating funds to a new TV ratings platform after the sale of...

Battle Brews Over Banning Natural Gas to Homes

May 31, 2021

May 31, 2021

A growing fight is unfolding across America as cities concerned about climate change consider phasing out natural gas for home...

Latest ‘Fast & Furious’ Movie Leads Weekend Box Office

June 27, 2021

June 27, 2021

LOS ANGELES—The “Fast & Furious” franchise gave Hollywood its best opening weekend since December 2019 at the box office this...

China Reconsiders Its Central Role in Bitcoin Mining

June 5, 2021

June 5, 2021

Bitcoin enthusiasts prize the cryptocurrency as beyond the reach of any government. Yet up to three-quarters of the world’s supply...

Novavax Covid-19 Vaccine Is 90% Effective in Key Study

June 14, 2021

June 14, 2021

An experimental Covid-19 vaccine from Novavax Inc. was 90.4% effective at preventing symptomatic disease in adults in a large clinical...

Ex-Trump Adviser Jason Miller Says New Social App Gettr Is Backed by Foundation Tied to Guo Wengui

July 2, 2021

July 2, 2021

Former Trump adviser Jason Miller says a new, free-speech-focused social-media platform he is leading has received financial backing from a...

Self-Driving Cars Could Be Decades Away, No Matter What Elon Musk Said

June 5, 2021

June 5, 2021

In 2016, Lyft CEO John Zimmer predicted they would “all but end” car ownership by 2025. In 2021, some experts...

Lordstown Motors Warning Highlights Cash Needs of EV Startups

June 9, 2021

June 9, 2021

The two-year-old firm, which is converting a former General Motors Co. factory to build electric pickup trucks, ended the first...

Germany Targets Google Market Power in Expansion of Tech Rules

May 25, 2021

May 25, 2021

Germany’s competition regulator is investigating whether Google is dominant enough to be subject to the country’s new digital-competition law, broadening...

10 STEPS TO BECOMING AN SEO EXPERT

July 29, 2021

July 29, 2021

Having SEO expertise is not the exclusive privilege of SEO professionals. This is a skill that can be mastered by...

DuPont Plans Moves That Would Remake Chemicals Company

November 2, 2021

November 2, 2021

DuPont de Nemours Inc. is planning deals that would remake the famed chemicals company, according to people familiar with the...

CDC Extends Federal Eviction Moratorium Through July

June 24, 2021

June 24, 2021

WASHINGTON—The Biden administration has issued a monthlong extension of a moratorium, through July, on the eviction of tenants who have...

What Happens When Mental-Health Issues Get in the Way of Work

June 3, 2021

June 3, 2021

Naomi Osaka did something this week that would be unthinkable in many workplaces. Citing her struggles with depression and social...

Centene Settles With Ohio and Mississippi Over Pharmacy Benefits Practice

June 14, 2021

June 14, 2021

St. Louis-based Centene denied any liability in its dealings with state Medicaid programs. Photo: Jeff Roberson/Associated Press Centene Corp. CNC...

U.S. to Downgrade Mexico’s Air-Safety Rating

May 22, 2021

May 22, 2021

U.S. officials are planning to downgrade Mexico’s aviation-safety rating in coming days, people familiar with the matter said, complicating a...