Passenger Count Graph

The Punta Gorda Airport saw 12,030 total passengers in April, a 93% decrease from April 2019 with 172,893 passengers.

PUNTA GORDA — The airport, along with many other businesses, is trying to adapt to the pandemic.

This month’s Charlotte County Airport Authority meeting, which took place Thursday, showed exactly what the board is trying to do. Board members and staff discussed rent and relief for its almost 40 tenants, planning a new budget for the remaining fiscal year with lower passenger counts, how they are preparing for their federal reimbursement of $23.8 million the Federal Aviation Administration rewarded them back in April, and more.

Here is what you need to know:

1 Tenants can expect some relief

A few of the airport’s almost 40 tenants have inquired for some help with their expenses, and Airport Authority commissioners want to help.

Board members instructed both staff and their attorney, Darol Carr, to develop a rent and/or revenue abatement procedure. If a tenant is accepted into this program, their payments from March 1 to June 30 would be deferred and no late fees nor charges would be accrued, nor would evictions take place, up to 180 days from the time of application.

Though the physical applications have not been drafted yet, board members will vote on them in their June meeting. If approved, tenants will then have the opportunity to apply until June 30, but that could be extended by the board, according to PGD spokesperson Kaley Miller.

The agreement will be conditional on the fulfillment of all obligations, including maintaining the lease and payments by the agreed time.

The application will also follow guidance from the Federal Aviation Administration, such as asking applicants to demonstrate that they have made efforts to receive supplemental funding, such as PPP loans.

“I think we can work with everyone,” Parish said.

2 Passengers are way down

The Punta Gorda Airport saw only 12,030 passengers in the month of April, with each plane filled approximately 30%.

This is a 93% decrease from April 2019, according to the airport’s passenger count report.

Even in March, with the effects of the pandemic really taking storm in the middle of that month, the airport saw 151,783 passengers that month, a 31% decrease from March 2019, which had 221,326 total passengers.

March is typically the busiest month of the year for the airport, but had each plane filled roughly 70%, compared to the usual 80 to 100%.

“This March was going to be a tremendous month, by far the biggest month we’ve ever had,” Parish said, originally projecting 300,000 passengers. “I think we’ll see it level off and it may start to come back up in June, July and August ... This is the reality of the airport world.”

With the projected flight schedule, the airport anticipates flights to be 60% full by October, increasing slightly each month and “will hopefully reach 80% load factor in February 2021,” Miller said.

The projections cause the anticipated airline-related revenue down to $6.3 million. Before the pandemic, the airport had planned for $10.8 million in airline-related revenue.

3 They’re getting ready to receive some federal funding

PGD’s revenues were cut by more than 80% since the pandemic started, Parish said in a column printed in The Sun.

Parish is confident that the airport’s revenues will return to a healthy level.

“We are not in this alone,” Parish said, “and we’re probably better off than most.”

In April, the FAA announced that it would be delving out $10 billion in grants to airports nationwide, with PGD receiving $23.8 million. This grant will be spread out for the next two-and-a-half years, reimbursing the Charlotte County Airport Authority for monthly operating expenses, as well as helping the airport pay its $2.7 million remaining loan debt from the Bailey Terminal expansion a few years ago.

However, the airport will cover its operational costs with the revenue it makes each month, and transfer the reimbursed funds into its reserve account to fund future projects.

“We have a guaranteed source of revenue,” Parish said. “We will not be spending our reserves to cover expenses because we’re covering it with revenue.”

In order to receive these funds, the airport must continue to employ at least 90% of its staff until Dec. 31. According to Parish, the has budgeted for 20% more than that requirement.

The Charlotte County Airport Authority will have its next meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday, June 18 at 7375 Utilities Road, Building 313, in Punta Gorda.

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