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Sea-Tac Airport passenger volumes down 50% in March, expected to decline further

Passengers spread out as they wait at a screening area meant for hundreds at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Wednesday, April 15, 2020.
Elaine Thompson
/
The Associated Press
Passengers spread out as they wait at a screening area meant for hundreds at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Wednesday, April 15, 2020.

Passenger volumes at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport were down 56 percent in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And officials with the Port of Seattle expect the numbers for April to show a 90 percent decline.

Lance Lyttle, managing director of Sea-Tac Airport, said the worst is yet to come.

“The reality is that April will be much worse than March," he said during a media briefing. "The airlines canceled 684 flights for April and that’s double what they canceled for March."

There was a bit of positive news in the latest numbers. Air cargo at the airport is up nearly 4 percent, reflecting the movement of food, medical supplies and ecommerce, according to port officials. But commissioners say the hit to airport businesses is still devastating.

 

Port of Seattle Commissioner Stephanie Bowman says airport businesses have additional challenges when it comes to weathering the pandemic, because they are completely reliant on having people in the airport.

 

“So while in the city of Seattle, for example, restaurants are doing everything they can to continue to do takeout and local residents are going to their neighborhood pub and doing takeout dinner, our businesses at the airport don’t have that opportunity and so they’ve been hit incredibly hard,” Bowman said.

 

The port says it wants to ensure that businesses can stay afloat. To that end, it's offered rent deferrals to airport restaurants and retail shops. There are 19,000 workers connected in some way to the airport, from pilots to air traffic controllers to retail workers.

 

The airport did receive $192 million in stimulus funds from the federal government, but  Lyttle says that won’t come close to covering all the losses. 

 

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News Sea-Tac AirportCoronavirus CoverageCOVID-19
Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.