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Phoenix Sky Harbor feeling economic impact of coronavirus pandemic

(Facebook photo/Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport)

PHOENIX — As COVID-19 continues to take its toll on Arizona, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has seen the economic impact of the virus firsthand.

Amid a sparse crowd practicing social distancing in a city council meeting that wouldn’t allow in-person public participation, Sky Harbor’s Director of Aviation Services Jim Bennett flashed pictures of emptiness of the airport to the Phoenix mayor and City Council.

“Last year, we had the busiest year in the history of Sky Harbor Airport, with a record 46.3 million passengers,” Bennett said. “Fiscal year to date, through February, we were showing a 3.9% increase over last year.”

It would take a miracle turnaround to get Sky Harbor to its projected 48-million passengers in 2020, along with all the revenue they would generate at the airport.

This month, year over year, Bennett reported parking revenue is down 81%, and rental car bus ridership is down 93%.

With practically no passengers, the airport has practically no concessionaires.

“More than 1,000 of their associates and managers have lost their jobs directly related to the downturn in the activity at the airport,” Bennett said.

However, Bennett says construction workers are still busy on capital and infrastructure projects.

“They also support 3,000 jobs, and these are good construction jobs in our community,” Bennett said. “These projects are either bond-funded or funded with federal grants.

“We will need these investments at the airport — when we come out of this downturn — in late 2022 or in 2023.”

The U.S. House of Representatives votes Friday on a $2 trillion stimulus package that includes $10 billion dollars for airports.

Bennett says Sky Harbor would get a piece of that.

Meanwhile, airport staffers employed by the city are staying busy by doing extra cleaning and sanitizing of all of the airport’s buildings.

Bennett also announced a deferral of payments from airlines for 90 days while they await a return of business and their own federal bailout.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

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