“The airlines are modifying their schedule each day,” said ECP Executive Director Parker McClellan. “We have seen cancellations by all four airlines operating at this airport.”

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WEST BAY — Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport is also feeling the squeeze due to the coronavirus pandemic.


“The airlines are modifying their schedule each day,” said ECP Executive Director Parker McClellan. “We have seen cancellations by all four airlines operating at this airport.”


In a month when tourism traffic usually spikes, the airport reported an 85% drop in flights from late March 2019 to 2020.


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“When I look at the traffic on the March 25, the traffic in 2019 was about 1,800 passengers and yesterday, less than 300 went through the checkpoint,” McClellan said. Nationwide, airports report an 87% reduction.


ECP makes its revenues from other aspects of the airport operation, such as parking fees, rent, and car rental charges, McClellan noted.


“Obviously, when that is down, so are our revenues,” he said. “We’ve already implemented an austerity program to make sure we can get through this with minimal impact.”


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“We’ve limited people spending, we've reviewed expenditures to make sure they're needed and can't be postponed ... to help us reduce our expenses as we move through the COVID-19 pandemic,” McClellan added.


Despite the drop in business, the airport has not made any staffing cuts, using reserved funds to continue to pay its employees.


“We’ve made a conscious decision to keep moving forward,” McClellan said. “It is our goal to maintain everyone in their positions and hours that they are as we move forward.”


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He said the airport authority is expecting some relief from the stimulus package, which includes a $10 billion emergency appropriation for commercial and general aviation airports, that headed to President Donald Trump’s desk on Friday. The money is a part of a $10 billion appropriation


Major airlines Delta, Southwest, United and American Airlines flies out of the airport, offering non-stop flights to several large cities, including Baltimore, Austin, Chicago, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C.


McClellan said there are no travel restrictions and the airport is not involved with any restrictions that may or may not come into play in the process of the government slowing the spread.


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Should Governor Ron DeSantis issue an executive order to shelter-in-place, ultimately shutting down the state — outside of essential business — as other states have done, McClellan said ECP will continue in operation.


“Our plan is to continue to operate as an airport and gateway to our community. We serve a critical role in the health of our community and we want to continue to maintain that posture,” McClellan said, noting the airport opened three days after Hurricane Michael to assist the community in its early recovery.


As ECP does not have flights coming from the tri-state area, the aiport does not meet the criteria for doing passenger health screenings for COVID-19. However, the airport has increased its sanitization procedures such as equipment wipe downs.