Golden Triangle Regional Airport working to overcome loss of business travelers

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As the United States comes off its busiest weekend for air travel since the start of the pandemic, the Golden Triangle Regional Airport is seeing its flow of passengers stay consistent with other airports across the country.

“Initially when this started, we were getting maybe 8 to 10 passengers a day and now, with 25 (people) a flight, we’re seeing a decent number of people coming back,” says airport executive director Mike Hainsey.

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In September, the airport got just 32% of the passengers they had during 2019. Hainsey says the airport is still missing most of it’s most reliable demographic.

“Without the business travelers in our market, they’re about 80 percent of our customers,” he says. “So until they start traveling, we’ll stay where we are now.”

The airport and carrier Delta Airlines are taking every safety precaution. But the reasons those passengers are staying away are out of their hands.

“A business traveler has to be sure that the ride to the hotel, the hotel, the restaurants are all following the COVID protocols or their people may be at risk,” Hainsey says.

Fortunately, the airport says they have been able to balance that loss with the recent up-tick in leisure travel.

“The air fairs have dropped significantly, depending on where you are going and we’re seeing a lot of people are traveling now for vacations,” Hainsey says.

Travel nurse Sarah Casey flew out of the airport Thursday to see family on the east coast.

“It’s a little scary at times but I feel pretty comfortable with it,” she said. “All the airports that I’ve been in during my traveling, I’ve felt safe in.”

While the airport itself remains financially stable, the drop in those business travelers has hurt the rest of the Golden Triangle community.

“On our restaurants, on our service industries, on our hotels, anything that has anything to do with travel, those industries have really been hit hard,” Hainsey says.

Hainsey added that the airport has been working with some of those businesses to increase awareness about their various safety protocols. He says there is hope that Delta could open up middle seats to passengers during 2021.