Arnold Palmer Regional Airport will halt commercial flights at the Unity Township facility starting next week and will furlough roughly 30 employees, airport officials told the Bulletin on Friday.

Westmoreland County Airport Authority Executive Director Gabe Monzo said all commercial flights at the airport will be grounded starting Wednesday, April 8.

"We thought it would be something like this eventually," Monzo said of the move, which he noted was made by Spirit Airlines and was spurred by a massive decrease in airline travel nationwide this month because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A Spirit spokesperson could not be reached for comment on Friday afternoon. The airport's lone carrier, Spirit has offered low-cost flights at the Latrobe-area airport since early 2011.

Monzo said last week that Spirit commercial flights at the facility were running at about 20% capacity. Typically, that percentage ranges from about 90 to 95%, he noted.

The airport will remain open for private aviation and charter service, Monzo said. He added that scheduled daily commercial flights will continue through Tuesday, April 7.

Among the workers to be furloughed include airline ticket counters, ramp workers and other commercial airline service employees, Monzo said. Airport maintenance staff and administrators are expected to keep working, he said, adding that maintenance workers will focus on general upkeep at the airport like cleaning, cutting grass and painting while Spirit flights are halted.

Monzo said work on a runway strengthening and widening project at the airport will begin next week as scheduled, as well as a two-week shutdown planned in September for work on the project. The $13.2-million project, which will widen the runway from 100 feet to 150 feet, is expected to be completed in October.

For more details on this story, see Monday's edition of the Bulletin.

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