CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The three largest airlines housed at Yeager Airport will remain there until at least 2023.
Yeager Airport Director Nick Keller announced to the facility’s board Wednesday during its monthly meeting that the airport has agreed to a 2-year extension of its airline operating agreements with American Airlines, Delta and United that were set to expire June 30 of this year.
Keller told MetroNews the negotiations began in December and the airport wanted to get a headstart on it because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He said the deal provides financial stability for the airport.
“This guarantees the presence of American, Delta and United. It guarantees the stability of landing fees, terminal rent and other charges that the airlines pay on an annual agreement,” Keller said.
United has been at the airport since 1961, American was the first airline to land in Charleston following the airport opening in 1947 and Delta has been at West Virginia’s largest airport since the 1980s, according to Keller.
He said the defined landing fees and rent on the terminals for the airlines will be determined this spring through working on the fiscal budget. Yeager’s fiscal year ends June 30.
“Just with all the uncertainty going on, everybody thought it would be a lot better to continue what we have going on now because it’s working,” Keller continued on the agreement.
Spirit Airlines is renewing its Charleston to Orlando nonstop flight on February 11, after pausing due to the ongoing pandemic. The flight was in service for one month before shutting down in March.
Keller said American is expected to resume its Washington D.C. on February 11 as well.
— Yeager Airport (@YeagerAirport) January 19, 2021
Keller said it’s a result of the advanced bookings improving and continuing into the spring months. He said the airport experienced its highest traveler rates of the pandemic around the Christmas season but is currently down 65% compared to January 2020.
Although the continued dip in enplanements, Keller said the airport remains in strong financial shape. He said one of the financial anchors through the pandemic has been military fuel revenue, which has accounted for 25% of the Capital Jet Center budget revenue.
“We have cash on hand. We have been conservative in our budgeting. We are in a strong position,” Keller told MetroNews.
“We’ve continued with a lot of capital improvement projects. I want Yeager Airport to be in a position where we can really expand and continue to be the most important economic driver for the state.”
The airport is set to receive up to $2 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding from the most recent package signed into law in December, Keller said.
The grant, expected to be finalized by the Federal Aviation Administration the first week of February, can be used on operations, personnel cost, maintenance, or cleaning.
The airport received $4.8 million in CARES Act money as part of the first package. Keller said they have drawn down $800,000 in CARES Act money in the current fiscal year.
Keller said the airport has been reserving money to backfill operational losses, resulting in not a single employee layoff during the pandemic.