Fewer passengers are using the commercial airline serving Del Rio, a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s airport manager said Friday.
“The airline is still flying, but the passenger count is dropping and dropping and dropping,” Del Rio International Airport Manager Juan Carlos Onofre said in a telephone interview Friday.
As of Friday, the airline’s flight schedule remained the same, but Onofre said he expects there will be changes in the near future.
He noted reservations for flights are declining.
“Reservations are dropping day by day, and the number of passengers, it’s falling and falling and falling. Things are changing so quickly, and I believe (the numbers) will eventually drop a lot more,” Onofre said.
“We receive a report on the number of reservations in the airline system every week. The average of that number of reservations for the last 52 weeks compared to the number received this Monday shows a 15% decrease in the number of reservations, and compared to the previous week’s report – March 16 versus March 9 – the decrease is 17%,” Onofre said.
“For this same week in 2019 the reservations for the following month – April 2019 – increased 25% – 1,227 to 1,623. For this reported week, the reservations for the following month – April 2020 – increased only 4% – 1,325 to 1,374. My take is that this will reverse as more strict restrictions are placed to counter the virus spread, and the airline is giving priority to the most near travelers (up to 72 hours in advance), to solve (cancel or reschedule) their upcoming flights, and cancellations for future March and April flights are not yet fully reflected on the data that we have,” Onofre added.
Until the COVID 19 pandemic, use of the airline had continued to climb, he said.
In January 2019, overall flight occupancy was 51.8%. In January of this year, that percentage had risen to 66%.
In February 2019, occupancy for the month was 56%. In February of this year, that percentage had climbed to 63.4%.
“I was expecting to end the month (of March) at 70% occupancy, but after the pandemic declaration, the effect was opposite, and this latest report, made March 15, has us at 55%, and it will continue to shrink as the month advances. My projection is to finish at about 50% occupancy for the month of March 2020,” Onofre said Friday.
He said he expects to hear some changes from the airline in the near future.
“The numbers will continue this low until some normalcy returns to our day-to-day life. We do not know what actions the airline will take to reduce the impact of the financial burden of reduced passengers, but some actions will be taken. At this point, all options are on the table,” Onofre said.
The airport manager also said he expects flight occupancy numbers to rebound as soon as the COVID-19 crisis is over.
Another change at the airport is that the vehicle rental company, Enterprise, has reduced its customer service hours and is now only coming in for the noon flight from Dallas.