TYLER, Texas — 2020 brought an unprecedented drop to air travel. In April of 2020, airlines carried 96% fewer passengers than in April of 2019. On December 31, 2020, over 1.5 million fewer people passed through TSA checkpoints than on that same day in 2019. The decline in passenger traffic happened in East Texas as well.
"I like to back up through the summer, you know, we saw, you know, gosh, about about a fifth of the traffic that we were seeing," Davis Dickson, Manger of Tyler Pounds Regional Airport, said.
He added that COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in some of the airport's short-term goals.
A new instrument landing system is almost ready, but needs approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. The wait is another delay that can be chalked up to the pandemic.
"It's really caused those kind of delays just for the inability for people to be on job sites or materials being delivered. So that's one of the impacts we're saying here," Dickson said.
The pandemic also required a sudden change to nearly every layer of airport operations, an industry that moves people on a daily basis. The end goal is moving quickly to keep customers and employees safe.
Dickson says the key was moving quickly while establishing new cleaning protocols. "We just had to retool our whole building maintenance and cleaning programs and be ready to make a quick call," he said.
After a slowdown in the summer, travel is starting to bounce back.
"And as we started going into the fall and the holiday season, we saw that those numbers pick up quite a bit."
Recent airport improvements, like a newer, longer runway, have paved the way for larger planes to land at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport. Leading to the potential of new airline customers and new destinations for East Texans. "We can take those Airbus aircraft all day long," Dickson said.
The airport is ready for growth to take off once again, as the travel industry starts to get back to business.