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President Trump’s limitations on travel from Europe to the United States, which start Friday, were the latest blow to airlines, which have struggled as the new coronavirus spreads worldwide.
Canceled flights and other lost business are expected to cost U.S. airports at least $3.7 billion this year, Airports Council International – North America said Thursday.
“North American airports responded swiftly to contain the spread of COVID-19 and continue to take aggressive steps to protect everyone traveling through their facilities,” said Kevin Burke, president and CEO of the council, which represents local, regional and state governing bodies that own and operate commercial airports in the United States and Canada.
“However, the abrupt decline in air travel resulting from this outbreak will cost U.S. airports at least $3.7 billion this year, and possibly more as people continue to cancel their travel plans,” he said. “This unexpected shortfall will strain airport operating budgets and potentially disrupt the funding of infrastructure projects already underway.”
The council did not yet break down expected losses by individual airports, said spokesman Patrick O’Connor. It expects the projections to change as more people cancel travel plans.
The council’s data does not include the effects from the travel restrictions from Europe.
The current estimate is based on 100 million fewer passengers boarding airplanes during the first half if this year, and 126 million fewer for the full year.
Total airport revenue is expected to fall by about $2.5 billion for the first half of the year, down nearly 22 percent from last year, and by $3.2 billion for the remainder of 2020.
Collection of the Passenger Facility Charge, an important funding source for U.S. commercial airports, is expected to fall by close to $500 million this year.
U.S. commercial airports already are struggling under $100 billion in total outstanding debt. They also face rising operating expenses related to increases in custodial costs from more frequent cleaning of public areas and restrooms, more and upgraded supplies and extra shifts and staffing. Other expenses include additional hand sanitizers in airport public areas for passengers and employees and additional education and training for airport employees and contractors, the council said.
Burke and the directors of nine U.S. airports met key administration officials today at the White House to discuss measures to protect the traveling public and airport employees and the economic impact from the sharp drop in air travel.
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