ORLANDO, Fla. – Greater Orlando Aviation Authority CEO Phil Brown said in an interview Wednesday it could be years Orlando International Airport sees travel numbers return to pre-coronavirus levels.
Traffic in U.S. airports have hit new lows amid the pandemic and fell below 100,000 in April for the first time since the jet age began. The Transportation Security Administration said it screened 98,968 people on Tuesday, down 95% of the nearly 2.2 million people who passed through checkpoints on the corresponding day a year ago.
In Orlando, OIA reported a 96% reduction in travelers Wednesday versus the same time last year. OIA had 1,889 departures on Wednesday compared to one year ago when the airport saw 69,351 departing travelers.
“Air traffic to Orlando will take some time to build back up,” Brown said.
When asked how long it could be before OIA bounces back from the coronavirus, Brown said it could be years.
“To get to the pre-COVID levels? Our rolling 12 months for February was 51 million passengers. I think it’ll be 2025 before we see those levels again,” Brown said.
A message from our Greater Orlando Aviation Authority CEO - Phil Brown: pic.twitter.com/4DyUaGxmiN— Orlando International Airport (@MCO) April 23, 2020
Brown is also a member of the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force charged with working to develop a phase-by-phase approach of reopening businesses in Orange County. There’s still no set timeline for when that will happen. The task force meets again next Tuesday.
“We observed after 9/11 that air traffic took a while to come back and people chose to drive more than they flew,” Brown said.
At least 12 TSA officers have tested positive for the coronavirus since the beginning of March, according to the agency. As of Thursday, 471 TSA federal employees have tested positive for COVID-19 across the country including four who died as a result of the virus. More than 134 employees have recovered from the illness, according to the TSA.
Orlando International will receive more than $170 million in aide from the $10 billion dedicated to transportation from the federal stimulus bill, the U.S. Department of Transportation said in a news release last week. The money is part of a $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package passed by Congress at the end of March amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Check back for updates on this developing story.