Passenger numbers plummet at Eastern Iowa Airport

By CBJ News Staff

After three consecutive years of record-breaking passenger numbers, the Eastern Iowa Airport’s (CID) March passenger traffic was down 44.4% compared to the same month in 2019, showing the stark effects of diminished travel due to COVID-19.

March is traditionally one of CID’s busiest months with thousands of people traveling for spring break, but as restrictions were put into place to help combat the spread of COVID-19, passenger numbers plummeted.

The March numbers are a stark contrast to passenger counts from earlier this year; January traffic was up 20% and February was up 30%. Now, year-to-date passenger traffic is down 2.5%.

One area of activity at CID that has increased this year is cargo traffic. Over the past three years, CID has established a more significant presence in cargo, handling 50% of Iowa’s airfreight. In March, the amount of enplaned freight/cargo at CID increased 6.2% and year-to-date the increase is 23.4% over 2019.

Airport Director Marty Lenss said CID had a strong cargo operation with its three cargo carriers – DHL, FedEx and UPS – prior to COVID-19 and that has been a vital part of essential services during the pandemic

“Everything from medical supplies, toilet paper, bleach wipes and the new pair of shoes you ordered have to get here somehow, and much of that is part of the air cargo activity at CID,” Mr. Lenss said in a press release.

In September 2019, CID and officials from UPS held a groundbreaking ceremony announcing an agreement for UPS to lease a 40,000-square-foot facility at CID. Mr. Lenss said the $10.2 million project is moving ahead as scheduled.

“We have been in contact with UPS and we are still on track,” he said. “Construction will begin this year and we anticipate the building will be completed in spring 2021.”

Construction is underway now in the long-term parking lot. “This project was already scheduled, and with few vehicles in the lot, it made sense to complete this now,” Mr. Lenss said.

Other construction projects that will begin this year include rehabilitation of runway 13/31 and the terminal circulation taxiway.

Mr. Lenss says both of those projects were part of the airport’s capital improvement plan and funding was already in place prior to COVID-19.

The airport recently learned it would receive $22.8 million as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Mr. Lenss says the airport team is finalizing the plan on how to best use the funds to maximize CID’s position when air travel begins to recover.

“We are very appreciative of this grant money that will help CID with the loss of revenue we are experiencing,” he says. Mr. Lenss says they are looking at directing funds toward staff retention, cost-cutting measures and strategic investments that would save money for the airport and its partners. CBJ