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Millions of federal dollars to help SWFL Int’l, Punta Gorda airports

Airports empty, airlines in critical condition, people told to stay home – and now, a sudden jolt of adrenaline: millions of dollars in cash.

The federal government is making an investment it believes will pay off now and when the country reopens, promising millions of dollars to airports and airlines.

Punta Gorda Airport’s lifeline is Allegiant Airlines, and because of the pandemic, the carrier has cut flights 80 to 90 percent.

“What that means is about 80 percent of our revenue is also going to be lost. We lose revenue from parking fees, from rental car concessions, from terminal concessions,” said Kaley Miller, Punta Gorda Airport marketing and communications manager.

Allegiant is the only air carrier to fly in and out of Punta Gorda Airport (PGD), which employs 95 people. The federal bailout money will keep the airport off life support.

“The $23 million will be used for keeping our airport running, for keeping the operations going and for keeping our employees staffed and working here at PGD.”

The Department of Transportation said the funds are available for “airport capital expenditures, airport operating expenses including payroll and utilities, and airport debt payments.”

Miller said it doesn’t include projects.

“For example, terminal expansions that we might consider down the road may be pushed off a few more years.”

The Lee County Port Authority has already pushed back its planned terminal expansion at Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW).

The $36 million on the table from the federal government will be used to keep its 365 employees on the job, despite an at least 60 percent reduction in flights.

Keeping everyone on the job will allow RSW and PGD to ramp up operations much quicker when we get the all-clear to travel freely again.

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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