We’ll Get There

Paul Bowers, Publisher
March-April
2021

It has been a little more than a year since our industry hit a major bout of turbulence. I’m not sure how many of you would have predicted how things would look one year later, but there’s no doubt that we’ve changed.

No, there wasn’t an apocalyptic crash of our airport system, or our economy, for that matter. On the other hand, passenger traffic and airport revenues have taken a substantial hit. As is typically the case, the take-home summary is not a simple black-or-white conclusion.

So, what are some takeaways from the past pandemic-filled year?

For starters, governmental funding made a pivotal difference. The CARES Act, supplemental AIP dollars and other relief payments were huge factors that are helping buoy U.S. airports. Not only did this money prop up payrolls and operations, it provided valuable funds for infrastructure projects. Conversely, Canadian airports, without federal aid, were left to fend for themselves; and reduced headcounts and operations were much more common.

On a related front, airport improvements continued at a terrific pace. Sure, some projects were delayed or scaled back. But overall, they are still happening at a rate needed to continue long-term industry growth. In fact, project rates follow the trends we’ve experienced over the last decade more than they reflect the realities of depressed passenger counts from 2020 and early 2021. Just look inside in this issue for examples. There is a plethora of stories about airports expanding their facilities and services to meet tomorrow’s growth, not stuck in pandemic-induced stagnation.

Lastly, we all “made do” with Zoom calls and virtual conferences while travel restrictions were in place, but they, too, will fade from prominence. Just as customers are eager to dine at restaurants rather than outside in tents outfitted with propane heaters, passengers will choose to fly for business and pleasure rather than settle for virtual communications. I, for one, can’t wait for that day. 

-Paul

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