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Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport withstands pandemic

Nathan Cobb
nathan@waltonsun.com
The News Herald

PANAMA CITY — In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, flights at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport are only down about 26%, officials say.

According to Parker McClellan, executive director for the airport, the drop is substantially better than in other parts of the country. As of Thursday, average activity levels of airports nationwide were down more than 70%, he said.

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“We’ve been very fortunate in the recovery,” McClellan said. “The demand for our beaches and the region has been there and airports across (our) region have all seen above-average numbers compared to the rest of the country.”

In total, about 800 badges employees, split between fields including airline workers, taxi driver and maintenance crews, work out of the airport. McClellan added that of those, about 60 work for the airport authority, which oversees the roughly 125,000-square-foot facility. As of Friday, none had been laid off due to the pandemic.

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To accommodate for the slight dip in revenue, the airport has deferred some smaller projects to next year. These include replacing electronic doors and fertilizing the landscape.

The airport services American, Delta, Southwest and United airlines, have all cut flights and constantly alter their schedules, McClellan said.

He added that two in particular, Southwest and American airlines, “recognized the demand for this region,” and as a result, increased flight activity here.

“All the airlines have made adjustments in their flight activity,” McClellan said. “They continue to make flight schedule changes based on demand.”

Looking ahead, he said that the airport would continue to work with its partners to make sure it’s on the “leading edge” of recovering from the pandemic.

As a safety precaution, all employees are also required to wear face masks when in a terminal or an area they can’t socially distance.

"We all think it’s very important that people feel safe when coming to the airport and that flying is still the safest way to travel,“ McClellan said.