Tallahassee airport hopes to recover from COVID-19

Tallahassee International Airport signage located at the terminal entrance. Photo by Brittany Jarret

As Tallahassee International Airport (TLH) works on recovering from losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the holiday season was expected to bring back the momentum — but it didn’t. Instead, the airport plateaued.

Jim Durwin, the deputy director of aviation at TLH, says that the passenger traffic was lower than they anticipated, but not uncommon among other airports.

“We were steadily getting better and better and really November, December, and we haven’t gotten our January numbers yet, but I anticipate for January— things kind of leveled off for us and that was about 55% lower than in the previous year [2019],” Durwin said.

In April of 2020, TLH was more than 90% lower than its projected traffic rate. However, at the time, a significant decrease was consistent with airports across the country due to the nationwide lockdowns surrounding the coronavirus.

Tallahassee International Airport’s 2019-2020 traffic history report. Photo courtesy: TLH Airport

 While many people were reluctant to travel for health and safety concerns, others did not shy away from the opportunity to see their family and friends.

Dwayne Meyer is a Tallahassee resident who works at the Capitol. Meyer and a friend of his both traveled through TLH in the past 3-4 months.

“I traveled for both Thanksgiving and Christmas because I wanted to spend the holidays with my loved ones,” Meyer said. “I had no issues or problems other than the airlines changing my flight.”

Photo 3: Travelers and workers wearing masks at baggage drop inside of the Tallahassee International Airport. Photo by Brittany Jarret

Tallahassee engineer Justin Price did not travel for the holidays this time around. He flew out of TLH a few weeks ago, though, and plans to take a trip or two closer to 2022.

“I did not experience any issues. All of the staff was friendly and knowledgeable. TSA was a quick and simple process too,” Price said.

Durwin said that TLH is not only being cleaned extensively, but sanitization is also a priority. This is to help ensure safe travels the best way they can.

He also believes that the airport industry will not get back to its pre-pandemic numbers until the federal government promotes and embraces traveling again, which he projects should happen in 2022.

Following President Joe Biden’s recent executive orders on mask mandates, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  issued an order that requires everyone to wear face masks on public transportation, including airports and airlines.

The Transportation Security Administration followed suit and will recommend fines ranging anywhere from $250 up to $1,500 for repeat offenders.