ENC airports prepare for summer travel boost

Published: Jun. 4, 2020 at 10:09 PM EDT
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The directors at Albert Ellis Airport in Onslow County and Coastal Carolina Regional Airport in New Bern are predicting an increase in daily departures by nearly double ahead of what could be a busier summer travel season.

Both airports have already seen their daily flight rates cut in half because of the coronavirus pandemic.

These predictions come as Delta Airlines announced Wednesday it is suspending services out of Coastal Carolina Airport. Airport Director Andrew Shorter said the company is not terminating its lease and hopes American Airlines will pick up that lost service.

“It’s disappointing because we have very good loyal Delta passengers here that may be forced to go somewhere else if they don’t make the conversion to American Airlines,” said Shorter.

The Department of Transportation announced it would be granting exemptions to airlines that prove that providing services out of certain airports would not be cost-effective.

The federal agency announced in March it would be giving federal aid to airlines during the pandemic, but had previously said the airlines could not cut services while receiving the aid.

Airports across the country have seen an 87% drop in traffic compared to last year, according to Albert Ellis Airport Director Chris White. At Albert Ellis, traffic has only decreased by 62%. White said he expects that number to go up with the summer travel season coming up.

“Tourism is picking up and we’re seeing a lot of demand, advanced bookings for vacation stays all the way from Emerald Isle, all the way to Topsail Island are picking up significantly,” said White.

“People are also getting a little more comfortable with traveling. It’s relatively safe. The airlines have taken a lot of steps to make sure the planes are clean and safe and sanitized.”

Both directors said they are currently seeing about three-to-four departures a day, and expect that to nearly double by July.