Passenger levels are improving, but they still are down dramatically from this time last year, members of the Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport’s governing board were told Tuesday.
The local airport is among the commercial aviation facilities across the country suffering from the actions taken to curtail activities in an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19. While commercial carrier American Eagle still is flying into the Lawton airport, the number of daily flights is down.
Airport Director Barbara McNally said the Lawton airport had 36 flights in May, for a total passenger enplanement (meaning, boarding aircraft at Lawton) of 770 and deplaning (getting off flights in Lawton) of 839. That compares to 4,986 enplanements in May 2019 and 4,736 deplanements in May 2019. Passenger levels haven’t been anywhere near normal since February, when they still were comparable to February 2019 (3,643 enplanements in 2020, compared to 3,727 in 2019).
Passenger numbers were about half of the normal load in March, but then dramatically in April to 341 enplanements (compared to 4,524 in 2019) and 369 deplanements (compared to 4,498 in 2019).
“We’re seeing a little increase,” McNally said of May activity, adding that while the airport is not near 2019 levels, “slowly but surely we’re moving.”
Airport authority members had said last month that the airport will have to rebuild the confidence of travelers. American Eagle will be helping the airport by announcing plans in May to bring daily flights back to three per day, with potentially four flights a day on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Before COVID-19, flights on Thursdays through Sundays often were booked to capacity.
Lawton’s airport also is in line to receive 25,000 to 30,000 masks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as part of a project to provide masks for aircraft passengers.
McNally said many airlines have begun mandating masks for passengers, and the Transportation Security Administration already requires passengers to wear masks while going through security screening before boarding aircraft.