The COVID-19 pandemic is having an enormous impact on the aviation industry, affecting passenger traffic, air cargo demand, airport workforce and incoming revenues.
Gary Thompson, who is the owner of Admiralty Air Service, offers charter flights throughout Southeast Alaska.
“I love flying,” Thompson said. “I always have. Gosh, I’ve been doing it up here since ‘93 and it’s a beautiful place to fly.”
The most interesting thing is that Gary is the only employee of the company, which has two airplanes and a small group of regular customers.
“[It’s] a small company like a lot of the companies that have been going broke around the country,” he said. “I’m just fortunate that I’m able to survive still.”
On average, Thompson used to fly around 450 to 500 hours a summer, but he was down to 400 hours last year which doesn’t seem to be a big loss. However, after paying all the expenses, those last 100 hours make a big difference, Thompson said.
Last year, Thompson along with 10 other Juneau airport tenants signed a letter asking the airport to use some of its $21.7 million in federal coronavirus relief to cover their rent payments for the year. In total, for 13 commercial aviation tenants, that’s $1.15 million.
When airport manager Patty Wahto got the request, she and other airport board members worked with the FAA to come up with a plan.
“Some of our operators aren’t even turning a proper rotor and this is a big deal because the rent is still due, everything is still due,” Wahto said. “So by at least pulling away from having this rent underneath them when they’re not making money or making very little, due to limited travel, that helps them immensely.”
The airport’s board approved the rent relief starting in July of 2020, which was a big help for Thompson.
“It made up for the lost business I had last year,” Thompson said. “That’s for sure.”
Wahto said they’ll continue assessing the need each year and could potentially offer this program through 2025.
“It may very well be that it’s going to take years for a rebound and this is something we can help them with,” Wahto said.
Unfortunately, the program is only available to commercial airlines, which means concessionaires inside the airport were not offered those funds.