Low number of people flying halts Eastern Iowa Airport project

Published: May. 22, 2020 at 9:48 PM CDT
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For some airports, there are 90% fewer passengers this April than last April. That has an effect all around, like parking revenue or ticket fees. The drop in passengers is causing a big impact at the Eastern Iowa airport.

"It's a lot different than it normally is on any regular day,” said Jessica Sander of Cedar Rapids.

Sander often flies out of the airport for work and leisure. Friday, she flew home to Michigan to surprise her mother.

"Michigan has been in lockdown for a lot longer than we have,” she said. “My Dad hasn't left the house for two months. My mom does the grocery shopping. They were expressing they've been missing me; so, I think it's just a good mental health break to go home and see everybody.”

She's watched the Eastern Iowa Airport expand through the years including the "Terminal Modification" project. That project had been in its final stages. Now, the final steps of that project, which include additional gates, bridges, and seating, will have to wait.

"There's just been nothing like this before,” said Director of the airport, Marty Lenss. “We're taking what we knew from recessions in 2008 and post 9/11. In both cases it took upwards of five years to recover."

Lenss said the number of people flying is slowly getting better every day and airports, airlines and the TSA are doing their best to keep people safe.

"Aircraft and terminals have never been cleaner,” Lenss said. “Our team is out in force doing that cleaning more frequently than we ever had before."

Recovery from the loss of people is going taking time, but Sander said it was worth booking a flight to help keep the airport afloat and to visit loved ones.

"It's so important to have an airport like this in our community and not have to drive somewhere like Des Moines for flights," she said. "It's a 10-minute drive to get here. I can get here a half hour before my flight and make it here just fine."