Airlines are expected to drop up to 60% of flights at the Colorado Springs Airport from their April schedules as demand for air travel has plummeted amid the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, the airport's top official said Tuesday.
The four airlines serving Colorado Springs — American, Delta, Frontier and United — operate 25-30 flights a day to Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver and six other cities. Delta has already cut two flights a week to Atlanta, said Greg Phillips, aviation director for the city of Colorado Springs, and other cuts are expected to be loaded into airline schedules by April 1, though he doesn't have details .
The expected flight cuts have prompted officials to close most restaurants and gift shops and shut down parts of the airfield to cut up to $4 million from the airport's $21 million budget, Phillips said. While no passenger numbers for March are yet available, the number of people passing through the airport's security checkpoint has declined from a daily average of 2,300 to about 300 on Monday, he said.
The Colorado Springs Airport started the year on a strong note with passenger numbers in the first two months of the year up 8.3% to 119,939 with increases from all four airlines, mostly because all of them increased seat capacity. The February numbers were up nearly 10% to 58,506, also with all four carriers posting gains, also from increased seat capacity. February's increase was the sixth consecutive monthly rise.
The Denver Post reported passenger numbers at Denver International Airport also are dropping sharply with traffic through its security checkpoints last week down 64.7% compared to the same week in March 2019. The 176,166 people who passed through security didn’t include connecting passengers.
"We are cutting our budget everywhere to make sure we are in the best possible shape when we come out of this," Phillips said. However, we are keeping everybody and are doing everything necessary to maintain our staff of 104. We have imposed a hiring freeze and a travel ban as part of that."
The latest closings include the Bristol Taproom and Novo Coffee on Tuesday; long-term parking will be shut down on Wednesday. The airport will continue to leave lighting on in areas of the long-term lot where vehicles are parked, but all arriving vehicles will now be directed to short-term parking, Phillips said. Springs Marketplace and the airport's food court beyond the checkpoint remain open for remaining passengers to buy food, he said. Details are available at coloradosprings.gov/flycos/alert/covid-19-airport-information.
The airport earlier closed its CNBC and jetBox gift shops, its premier lounge and valet parking operation as passenger numbers dropped. The four airlines serving the Springs have canceled about a third of the airport's flights in recent days in response to paltry passenger numbers, which Phillips said have fallen to an average of about 10 passengers per flight.
Officials also are deferring several construction projects, including repaving the rental car area, and delayed purchasing equipment, including a new snow plow and a long-planned replacement of the airport's phone system, Phillips said. Construction continues on a new deicing pad, which is part of an aerial wildfire-fighting hub, and renovations to the passenger terminal, which is nearly complete, he said.