In January 2019, the I Fly Wichita campaign was launched with the goal of strengthening passenger demand in order to attract more nonstop destinations. Better access to the air transportation system is key to economic expansion. Airports are the gateway to the nation’s air transportation system and the world’s economy. Air transportation supports tourism, agriculture, emergency medical services, military, and public safety. On a national scale, 493 commercial U.S. airports produced an annual output of $1.4 trillion.1
The 2017 Kansas Aviation Economic Impact Study reports impressive statistics for Wichita Eisenhower National Airport:
- Total employment: 20,583
- Total payroll: $1,206,733,800
- Total economic output: $4,978,579,200
You were instrumental in making 2019 a record year. But you may be wondering if this campaign is still relevant. The answer is YES! We need your support now more than ever. Rather than trying to add new destinations, our goal now is to keep the destinations and airlines currently serving ICT. Through July, passenger traffic at ICT is down 55% from a year ago. In the U.S., it’s down 74%. Passenger traffic started to increase in May but has been stagnant in July and August. Surveys indicate that business travel will take longer to recover than leisure travel. Businesses have cut travel to reduce costs and have opted for more virtual meetings than travel.
As part of the $25 billion federal aid package approved in the CARES Act, airlines were required to maintain a minimum level of service through Sept. 30, 2020 and keep staff on the payroll, regardless of passenger demand. With those conditions coming to an end, airlines are looking for ways to cut their operating costs and maintain their bottom line.
More than 75,000 U.S. airline employees have been warned their jobs are at risk on Oct. 1 when the terms of the CARES Act expire. Those terms protected airline employees’ paychecks. Airline labor unions and company executives are pushing for another $25 billion for airline payrolls through the end of March. So far, no agreement has been reached.
The trouble in the airline industry and lack of a new aid package have left employees in limbo. U.S. passenger and cargo carriers together employ around 700,000 people, but other jobs could be at stake. According to Airlines for America, the airline industry supports some 10 million jobs. Those include more than 6 million jobs in tourism and hospitality.2
Airlines are reducing flights and operating smaller aircraft to adjust to less demand. Older aircraft and wide bodies have been grounded, replaced with smaller aircraft better suited for smaller loads. About 29% of the U.S. passenger airline fleet remains idle.1 Fewer flights result in longer connect times and fewer options. Our September schedule shows 35% fewer flights and 34% fewer seats than September 2019.
Wichita knows only too well the impact of COVID-19 on the aerospace manufacturing sector. Airlines are burning through $5 billion per month this summer. Once demand recovers, it will take years for airlines to retire their debt, rehire, and be able to reinvest. Airbus and Boeing have reduced the number of aircraft they produce.2 The International Air Transport Association now forecasts that global air travel demand won’t recover to 2019 levels until 2024.
The pandemic has left many of us frustrated and wishing there was something we could do, and there is. Your support of the airline industry will boost our economy and help keep your fellow Kansans employed. Fares are greatly reduced and there are many places you can travel to that are not crowded. Airports and airlines have increased cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitation processes to keep you safe. Wichita has always been known for its entrepreneurial spirit, it’s can-do attitude, and overcoming challenges. Now more than ever, it’s important to Fly Wichita.
1 Airports Council International
2 Airlines for America