Passenger traffic out of Barkley Regional Airport is down significantly as more and more people are urged to stay home and limit in-person contact to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“At the moment, there’s only about a handful of passengers flying,” said Dennis Rouleau, airport executive director, on Wednesday.
“We’re still operating, because our flights are Essential Air Service (part of the government-subsidized program), but the drop-off is significant.”
The majority of passenger traffic is people from the area traveling to Chicago and back, Rouleau said.
“I would say it’s probably a 70-30 (%) split, with more people going up to Chicago to do business. But, for example, recently there was an insurance company that flew down here because one of my tenants had an aviation insurance policy with them.”
While the twice-a-day roundtrip flights between Paducah and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport are subsidized, Barkley revenue is still affected.
“It (passenger drop) also impacts associated revenue sources, like parking concession fees and rent-a-car business. We’re not immune,” Rouleau said.
There is only so much the airport can do to cut expenses, according to Rouleau.
“I did put out a directive that unless it’s absolutely critical, we’re not purchasing anything. Not that we’re buying frivolous stuff,” he said.
“We’re a federally regulated environment. I’m required to have police staff, I’m required to have a fire department here. I’m required to do daily inspections. And, we have two crash trucks we have to maintain.”
Besides the airport, Rouleau recognizes the entire community is being impacted by the concern over the coronavirus.
For example, “I’m concerned about the restaurants and the people that work there that have lost income,” he said.
“This is the time to be watching out for our fellow man, be respectful of one another and help each other.
“Be patient, follow the guidelines, and you know, we are going to get through this.”