Airline laying off local employees; RIC traffic numbers edged upward in June

One of the new CAT units at Richmond International Airport. (RIC photo)

The number of people flying in and out of the region is increasing gradually, but passenger counts at Richmond International Airport remain significantly below prior-year numbers as the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect air travel.

That was the message that airport administrators delivered to the Capital Region Airport Commission at its monthly meeting this week, as the latest aviation activity report showed that passenger traffic in June totaled 77,218 – more than double the 33,125 passengers that RIC had the month before, and more than five times higher than the 13,550 passengers in April.

But June’s count was nearly 80 percent lower than the same month last year, when passenger traffic totaled 383,535 in June 2019. Traffic in May had been down 91.6 percent compared to last year, while April traffic was down 96 percent year-over-year.

With June closing out fiscal year 2020, the total passenger traffic count for the 12-month period that ended June 30 was nearly 25 percent below the previous fiscal year.

The terminal lobby at Richmond International Airport. (Todd Wright/RIC)

Total cargo, including freight and mail, increased 7.3 percent in June from last year, while the fiscal year total decreased 1.6 percent from the previous 12-month period. Aircraft operations decreased nearly 45 percent in June compared to the year before, and decreased 13.6 percent for the fiscal year.

Some signs of stability came in the number of cancelled flights, as the airport reported a 100 percent completion rate in June with zero cancelled flights, compared to 41 cancellations in May and 920 in April. RIC anticipates additional routes to restart in July and August with flights to Detroit, New York LaGuardia, Fort Lauderdale and Denver.

The report included projections from Airline Data Inc. that keep scheduled seat capacity at RIC in negative year-over-year percentages through September, a change from prior forecasts that put capacity returning to previous-year numbers in July. Projections now call for scheduled seat capacity to move into positive territory in October, when capacity is projected to be up year over year by one-half percent.

In other business at the meeting, CEO Perry Miller reported that TSA has started implementing new credentialing technology at RIC used to confirm the validity of travelers’ identification and their flight information nearly in real time.

Called CAT units, for credential authentication technology, they’re used to identify bogus driver’s licenses, passports and other ID documents. TSA has five of the units, which cost about $30,000 each, in use at RIC.

Airline laying off 36 workers

In other airport news, ExpressJet Airlines plans to lay off 36 employees at its RIC maintenance facility, according to a WARN notice filed with the Virginia Employment Commission this month.

The July 17 notice attributes the layoffs to the COVID-19 pandemic. The layoffs would take effect Oct. 1, adding to other job cuts that the Atlanta-based company has announced for maintenance facilities across the country.

It is unclear how many workers are employed at the Richmond facility. A call to a company contact listed on the notice was not returned Wednesday.

ExpressJet operates the United Express brand of United Airlines under parent company ManaAir, of which United Airlines has a minority interest.

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