The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has currently put a hold on most flight offerings at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.
Several Westmoreland County Airport Authority board members expressed concerns at Tuesday’s virtual meeting about the lack of availability of flights from Unity Township to Fort Myers, Florida.
Flights to Fort Myers — one of the airport’s regular Sunshine State destinations, along with Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, before the pandemic — haven’t occurred at the airport since Jan. 4, airport authority executive director Gabe Monzo said.
“We were sending airplanes to Fort Myers with 30 people on them, but coming back, they were full,” Monzo said, with Smarto adding that a Fort Myers-bound flight she was recently on had just 18 passengers. “I just keep calling them and letting them know we’re available.”
According to the Spirit Airlines website, flights from Unity Township to Fort Myers won’t be available until March 10. The airport is also expected to resume its popular flights to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on Feb. 12.
Currently, the Arnold Palmer airport is only offering flights to Orlando. According to the Spirit Airlines website, the Orlando flights are available four days per week — Monday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday — before expanding to a daily schedule next month.
Monzo said the Orlando flights are doing well, noting than more than 130 passengers are slated to fly from Unity Township to the popular family winter destination on Thursday.
Monzo said previously that many flyers aren’t scheduling flights more than a week in advance because of uncertainty tied to the pandemic.
Spirit, per its website, is offering flights from Pittsburgh International Airport to Fort Myers four days per week. Authority board member Janice Smarto wondered if flyers would have chosen to fly out of Unity Township instead of Pittsburgh had local Fort Myers offerings been available recently.
Like the rest of the airline industry, Arnold Palmer Regional Airport was hit hard by the pandemic in 2020. The airport’s annual report showed just 62,670 outgoing passengers this past year, compared to 155,905 in 2019; total passengers, traveling in and out of the terminal, fell to 123,511 from 309,817 in 2019.
In other business, the authority board named officers for 2021, appointing Paul Puleo as chairman, Janice Smarto as vice chairman, Vince Finoli as secretary, Don Rossi as treasurer and Gary Beck as assistant treasurer.
Also Tuesday, the authority board approved several change orders: $20,390.00 to ABS Building Systems Integrators LLC, for additional door hardware, café area modifications and gate ceiling tile replacements as part of an ongoing holding room expansion, rental office relocation and parking lot reconstruction project; $9,850 to Darr Construction Inc. for assorted terminal light fixture replacements, and to $13,900 Combustion Service & Equipment Co. for modifications to the baggage carousel area and existing hold room ductwork as part of HVAC system upgrades in the terminal.