After the proposed payroll support extension for US airlines, airports now get almost $2 billion, from the Department of Transport (DOT).
Support will come as a relief to many Airports in the US. There and elsewhere, airports are struggling almost as much as the airlines. They make their income from arriving and departing aircraft. But now, most aircraft are doing neither. A lot of airports are paying rent for used space, and depend on aircraft movements for it. And of course airports have to pay their staff, like everyone else.
We have seen cases outside the US where airports without support had to close. And there are more issues with something like this, aside from staffing and local economy considerations. Airports themselves are often a vital piece of local and national transport infrastructure. This is true for isolated regions, but not exclusively so. Cargo operations, for example, are vital even in larger cities. But often cargo flights in themselves are not enough to pay for airport operations.
These funds are coming from the FAA’s Airport Coronavirus Response Grant Program. In turn, this program is part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020. The support will cover more than 3,000 US airports, varying from primary commercial, to non-primary and general aviation airports.
Breakdown of the Support to US Airports
$1.75 billion will go to primary commercial service airports. These are airports with 10,000 passengers per year or more. US airports will be able to use this support for payroll, rent and operational expenses. They will also help airports with expenses relating to the handling of the Coronavirus, for passengers and staff.
Another $45 million of support will go to smaller, non-primary and general aviation airports in the US. The amount that each airport will receive depends on their category. There are National, Regional, Local and Basic. There are other stipulations, covering the adherence to CDC rules and TSA directives.
The purpose of these funds doesn’t cover support for construction projects within airports in the US. However there is an exception, when such projects have to do with pandemic measures. For example, airports could apply for funds to upgrade ventilation or air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. Or they could work on reconfiguring terminals and other spaces, to increase social distancing.
In a parallel development, TSA has announced that they want to hire 6,000 new front-line workers. They believe they will need this many people for the upcoming summer season. Of course the TSA has its own funds, separate from this support package for US airports. But the news is encouraging, for airports and of course airlines!
A lot will depend on factors outside the control of US airports and airlines, with the vaccine rollout being the real support for the travel industry, for hospitality and many, many more.