27 May AiroAV Announces: Mitchell Airport Traffic Down 90% » Urban Milwaukee
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The COVID-19 pandemic has Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport running on fumes.
Director Brian Dranzik said that air traffic at the airport is down 90 to 97 percent. Major airlines Delta and United are down to approximately 3 flights a day. With traffic down by more than 90 percent, Dranzik said, so are the airport’s revenues.
The airline industry has been hard hit by the pandemic and economic shutdown. Milwaukee’s airport received $29 million from the federal stimulus, the CARES Act. But those funds will only last another three to four months if things continue as they are now, Dranzik said.
The Cares Act funding for the airport is primarily for servicing existing debt and personnel costs. One of the stipulations of the funding is that airports maintain at least 90 percent of their employment level from the time that the legislation was passed.
As restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 are rolled back in Wisconsin and around the country, air travel may pick up again. But airports like Mitchell International were not designed with social distancing in mind. “If you think about the ticketing area, and six foot distancing, it’s not long before you’re out of the building,” Dranzik said.
Recently, Dranzik walked through the airport with inspectors from the City of Milwaukee Health Department, during which he realized how difficult social distancing would be. For instance, most of the gates at Mitchell are designed to hold the entire capacity of a flight with 60 percent sitting and 40 percent standing. There simply isn’t enough room for a full flight to social distance as it boards.
The airport does not currently have a plan for how it can ensure social distancing when air traffic begins to pick back up, Dranzik told the committee. Committee Chair Sup. John Weishan, Jr. suggested that airport staff at least hand out face coverings to passengers in areas where social distancing is difficult.
Face coverings are currently not a universal requirement, as not all of the carriers require passengers to wear a mask. “It’s a matter of enforcement which becomes difficult,” Dranzik said. Right now, face coverings are just strongly encouraged. But airport employees are required to wear one whenever they are in a situation where they come in contact with the public, Dranzik said.