PUNTA GORDA — Things are slowly getting back to normal at the Punta Gorda Airport.
With flights typically teetering between 80% to 100% full, this quickly dropped to approximately 70% in March amid closures spurred from the coronavirus pandemic, and fell even further to roughly 30% in April.
However, things are looking up, with flights being roughly 60% full in May, with 63,314 passengers. This is still a 48% decrease from May 2019, though.
“Allegiant,” the sole airline at Punta Gorda Airport, “is trending back up faster than all the major (airlines),” said PGD CEO James Parish at Thursday’s monthly Airport Authority meeting.
PGD has tentatively planned for flights to get back to 60% full by October, and back up to 80% in February.
Those estimates are conservative, however, as June has seen, so far, a 69% load factor for flights.
The airport is also going forward with construction of an expansion of 1,000 spaces to its long-term parking lot.
“We are seeing some resurgence in parking,” Parish said, plus it would benefit the local economy. “We have the funds available and we have the contractor standing by ... These are things that we could get people working right away.”
With the Airport Authority’s approval, construction will probably start in July and be completed around March 2021.
Last month, the Airport Authority was also looking into a tenant relief program, which would defer March, April, May and June rent and the tenant would have until Dec. 31 to repay the rent without late fees.
Though three tenants initially inquired about rent relief, and staff notified the airport’s almost 40 tenants of the opportunity, no tenant has actually applied, according to airport spokesperson Kaley Miller. Tenants have until June 30 to apply.
The board also approved anther improvement to the airport Thursday, which would bring cell service to the Bailey Terminal.
“If you have been in our terminal, you’ll notice that we don’t have cell service,” Parish said. “It is a dead zone.”
PGD staff received an unsolicited bid from the American Tower Corporation to install an antenna system to bring cell service to the airport at no cost. Once installed, the airport would receive an additional $50,000 from each of the first two cell service providers to sign on, and at least $10,000 annually.
“It could be just a few months or up to three years before passengers start receiving cell service,” Miller said, and it depends on how quickly the company installing the tower can get two cell service providers to sign on.
The Charlotte County Airport Authority will not be having a meeting nor a workshop in July. The board will have a workshop starting at 9 a.m. Aug. 6 to discuss the budget and other matters, and have a meeting at 9 a.m. Aug. 20. Both the meeting and workshop will take place in the Airport Authority Board Room at 7375 Utilities Road, Building 313, in Punta Gorda.