The Jacksonville International Airport is preparing for an expected influx of travelers as the holiday season approaches, although numbers are still expected to be significantly lower than years prior.
“Travel, as it starts to come back, is a positive thing,” said Michael Stewart, the director of external affairs at the Jacksonville Aviation Authority. “But it's way short of where we were back in January. I think we're only about 40% back in our number of travelers at this point.”
Stewart said the expected number of outbound passengers is around 7,000. In 2019, that number was 11,000-12,000.
“Everything in the [JAA]’s realm of making money is based on number of passengers,” Stewart said. “Everything drives it. You have more parkers, you have more concessionaires, and you just have more people coming to the airport, dropping off people ,picking up people, and getting the concessions in pre security. The hotels on Airport Road, the parkers that are off airport property, all of those benefit as the numbers increase.”
Stewart wouldn’t give specifics on the economic hit the airport has taken because of the pandemic. However, he did say the numbers are looking better than in April, when the airport was averaging just 400-500 passengers per day.
To account for the extra traffic over the holiday season, the airport is opening up one of its economy lots on Thanksgiving Day. The cars that park there will have to be out of the lot by November 30.
The lots have been closed since April.
Several of the restaurants in the airport terminal will also open up during the holiday season, with limited menus and modified hours.
“Hopefully they'll be able to stay open even past the Christmas holiday season,” Stewart said. “That will be decided upon as we see traffic increase.”
There will still be strict COVID-19 guidelines in place, as well, including:
- A mask requirement throughout the airport and on flights. They will be provided to any traveler without one.
- Reduced seating at restaurants and food courts.
- Plexiglass barriers at ticketing stations, information desks and gates.
- Stand-alone and wall-mounted hand sanitizer stations throughout the terminal.
- Frequent cleaning of high-touch areas throughout the terminal.
More information on health and safety protocols at JIA can be found here.
Sky Lebron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.