Though the airline industry has been crippled overall due to concerns about COVID-19, the Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport could see minimal effects financially as they make adjustments to how they operate.
Airport Director Rob Barnett said he’s been in conversations daily with Allegiant Airlines and Cape Air officials as both adapt to the latest guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Transportation Security Administration.
“We certainly have changed our way of doing business over the past several days by implementing all of the CDC and TSA recommendations,” Barnett said. “We are planning for the worst, hoping for the best. We are certainly in tumultuous times. There are sweeping changes daily as it relates to the airline industry.”
While major airlines will be dealt a heavy financial blow, one advantage of being a smaller airport is the source of revenue. Larger airports rely heavily on parking fees, but that’s a minimal factor in Owensboro.
“Being a smaller regional airport, our financial capability differs than larger airports,” Barnett said. “Larger airports rely on lots of parking revenue. We have a very diverse financial statement and budget. We’re able to draw down the operations much easier than the larger airports.”
However, there have been no employee cuts and no changes to the staff work schedule.
“We’re thinly staffed to begin with,” Barnett said. “We’re not overstaffed by any stretch of the imagination, but we’re well-trained. We deal with a lot of different aspects of aviation. A lot of the larger airports have job-specific responsibilities.”
There has not yet been a reduction in flights, either, though the number of passengers has certainly dipped. Barnett said most people have simply postponed their flights for later in the year or have claimed vouchers for future travel rather than cancelling altogether.
“Tickets sales are very low, and rightfully so,” Barnett said. “People want to protect themselves and protect their families, and they’re limiting their air travel and their exposure. It’s the right thing to do.”
Barnett said he’s been preparing for every scenario — including the potential grounding of all domestic flights. He said they are not totally protected by any means, but they are in a good position to ride out whatever changes may be in store.
With general, corporate and recreational aviation as well as commercial airlines, the airport is able to offer a diverse set of operations.
“We’re prepared to weather the storm,” he said. “I’m a planner. I look out there in the future and I say ‘If there was a shutdown, how would we react and could we sustain?’ Yes we could. We could sustain based on a lot of different factors. We would continue to operate and serve the public.”
The Owensboro Health coronavirus hotline is available 24/7 by calling 877-888-6647. Call the hotline before seeking in-person care. More information from OH can be found here.
For the latest information and data on COVID-19 in Kentucky visit kycovid19.ky.gov or dial the Kentucky state hotline at 800-722-5725.
For the latest health guidelines and resources from the CDC, visit their website here.