Manhattan Regional Airport is among many airports nationwide struggling through the impacts of COVID-19.
American Airlines, which services daily flights from MHK announced it will suspend daily flights to Chicago O’Hare effective Friday. Service is tentatively set to resume September 9. This will take MHK down to 12 weekly departures, all to Dallas Fort Worth. Airport Director Jesse Romo says it speaks to the fluidity of airline schedules right now.
“If folks are flying out, I encourage you to visit American Airlines website or visit flymhk.com because they are changing quite a bit. We’re hopeful that more and more people can fly, but want to ensure everyone’s safety comes first,” he said.
Enplanements, which is the number of people boarding flights, were down 95 percent in April and have modestly improved in the months since (88 percent down in May, 79 percent down in June). Romo says July enplanements so far are down 66 percent over the year before.
“At best it’s going to take at least a year to recover. It’s probably going to be a lot longer than that but it’s just guess work at that point. We’re hopeful that American continues to rebound and bring flights back, but we also need to see the enplanements, the number of people flying back, that’s been the struggle for us. Just a lot of unknowns out there,” he said.
American Airlines is now requiring all passengers in the terminal to have a mask when traveling. Those standards are being adopted by airlines nationwide as well.
The last flight from Manhattan to Chicago will take place Thursday at 5:50 a.m. Flight information is available at flymhk.com.
One bright spot with the reduced passenger traffic has been the progress achieved on parking lot improvements at the airport, which includes the paving of the gravel lot. Romo says with work has been able to be almost uninterrupted.
“COVID has impacted construction as well because sometimes it delays things that are on order, then you have to make adjustments. They’re doing the best they can to get out there to put out signage and take advantage of less people to get as much paved out as they can,” he said.
The newly paved lot is tentatively set for completion on Nov. 1. As for the future of paid parking at the airport, Romo says that is uncertain.
“That’s something we talked about with the Airport Advisory Board and we’ll go back to the Manhattan City Commission in a couple months and talk about again. With the reduction of people we may have to re-evaluate how we charge, when we implement the fee. Everything is up in the air right now,” he said.
Romo says the airport is also taking advantage of any federal funding it can toward its runway construction project, mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration. He says airport officials are finishing up planning and preparing for the design phase of that project, which will likely begin construction in 2022 or 2023.