Atlanta airport manager: Full recovery could be 5 years away

Atlanta airport manager: Full recovery could be 5 years away
© Greg Nash

The head of Atlanta's airport says that it could be years before revenue rebounds from the lows seen during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport General Manager John Selden told told a city council committee that airports are expecting to see fewer flyers for the foreseeable future, adding that it could be two to five years before a return to pre-coronavirus levels, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“We expect this to continue as people feel more and more comfortable traveling,” Selden said.

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Selden added that Altanta's airport lost nearly $42 million between January and March of this year, and he expects to lose more.

One sign of hope for the city is Delta Air Lines, however, which he said has begun restoring flights to its schedule as more passengers book air travel.

“Atlanta is going to be one of the major places of recovery for Delta,” Selden said, adding that "we think we’ll be in a very good position to have most of the airport open" if the airport can return to a level of 50 million passengers annually in 2021.

Airlines began cutting flights and suspending service to specific airports earlier this year as the coronavirus pandemic largely shut down nonessential travel in the U.S. and abroad. Delta announced earlier this month that it would suspend service to nearly a dozen airports and reduce flights out of others to cut costs.

“Building on the numerous health and safety measures Delta has implemented in recent weeks to protect our customers and employees, we will temporarily consolidate our operations in several markets served by multiple airports beginning May 13 while customer volume is significantly reduced,” the company said.

“These changes will allow more of our frontline employees to minimize their COVID-19 exposure risk while ensuring convenient access to Delta’s network for those who must travel," it continued. "Delta will continue providing essential service to impacted communities via neighboring airports.”