Southern Tier airports get COVID relief funds; Elmira-Corning, Binghamton top list
Elmira-Corning Regional Airport and the Greater Binghamton Airport are two of many Upstate airports, devastated by the ongoing pandemic, that were included in a recent $36.5 million COVID relief package.
Thomas J. Freeman, Director of Aviation at Elmira-Corning Regional Airport, said the $1,631,594 the airport will receive is geared to cover revenue lost this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s really from the fact that there is no or limited airline revenue, parking revenue, rental car and other revenues,” Freeman said. “The funding supplements the lost revenues for 2021.”
Freeman said the Elmira-Corning airport received $1.2 million last year to cover the loss in 2020.
“The funding we received in 2020 did cover the loss and I anticipate the 2021 funding will as well,” Freeman said.
Mark Heefner, Commissioner of Aviation at the Greater Binghamton Airport, said his facility also received federal funding to help offset revenue losses in 2020 and 2021.
“For airports our size, it’s probably not going to be enough, but it is extremely appreciated. It helps. Every single bit helps,” Heefner said of the $1,009,278 Greater Binghamton will receive in 2021. “The funding is intended to help with operation needs and debt services.”
Heefner said the aviation industry is down 65 percent from what is was in 2019.
“The first funding was announced in April 2020, and the funds didn’t arrive until May 2020,” Heefner said. “So it took a little while to get to the airports. It’s kind of like the 2021 funding, which was announced in December and here we are in February waiting for it to be distributed, which is understandable. They’re actually moving very quickly with these grants, and we are so appreciative.”
Heefner said the losses starting last year were even harder because they came off a high period for the industry.
“From 2019 to 2020 airline revenues dropped by $112 billion in the United States,” Heefner said. “2019 was a record. We go from having a positive record in 2019 to a negative record in 2020. It’s 'Jekyll and Hyde.' Air travel across the county is down 65 percent. We are hoping for a third funding package going to airports and airlines because the industry is down $37 billion in the United States.”
He noted that the lack of business doesn't make Upstate airports any less necessary.
“This funding will allow BGM to keep running a safe and secure airport for our community,” Heefner said. “It is a step toward recovery and restoring confidence in air travel."
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, said that as the crisis extends beyond what was initially estimated, impacting the air travel industry for months on end, the federal funding allocated for airports in the COVID package will help airports stay afloat through the second wave.
“Air travel is vital to the connectivity and success of the Upstate economy, which is why, as New York battled a second wave of the pandemic, I fought tooth and nail in negotiations to get airports the funding they need to keep services running,” Schumer said. “Airports serve important functions in many communities, especially in more rural areas, connecting people to the rest of the world and allowing for economic opportunities to land.”
Gillibrand said as New Yorkers continue battling the COVID-19 crisis, officials cannot leave airports behind.
“Airports, travel, and tourism will be a critical part of our economic recovery and these federal dollars will help airports across Upstate New York continue providing high-quality and safe transit when travel takes off,” Gillibrand said.