Yeager Airport board approves budget that projects steep drop in passengers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Yeager Airport’s board of directors approved the facility’s budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year on Wednesday.

During its board meeting, officials approved the budget that includes a $10 million operating budget with $18 million in capital improvements planned. The budget also projects 20 percent of the airport’s normal passenger rate for the next year.

Airport Director Nick Keller said the next fiscal year, which begins July 1 for West Virginia’s largest airport, is based on a flatline of 150 people flying per day. Overall, the airport is projecting 56,000 passengers, compared to an average year of 225,000.

Nick Keller

Keller told MetroNews that officials with the airport are trying to be conservative with the revenue estimates because of the uncertainty with COVID-19, as MetroNews previously reported.

Because of the virus and near shutdown of the economy, Yeager Airport saw record low enplanement numbers in April, including days with 20 or fewer passengers. Before the pandemic, the average number of flyers per day at the airport was 750.

Keller told the board on Wednesday that enplanement numbers are improving in June from the previous month’s numbers.

“We are looking at an average of 116 passengers per day between June 1 and the 18. Last Saturday we got around 205 passengers,” he said.

Despite the projected fall in passenger rates between July 1, 2020, and June 30 of 2021, Keller said the airport is in good shape financially.

Yeager received $4.8 million in federal relief in which Keller said the airport will use to backfill any losses in the budget. That includes charges and landing fees for airlines.

He projected the airport using $2.9 million of the CARES Act money in the upcoming fiscal year, keeping the landing fees and rent for airlines the same.

Keller said Yeager officials met with its airlines on Thursday including American, Delta, United, and Spirit and all approved the budget.

“They wanted me to pass on to the board their appreciation that we kept their landing fee and rent stable and also that we offered them some relief in the form of we deferred fixed rent and landing fees for two months. All the airlines, Delta, American and United have taken advantage of that,” Keller told the board of the meeting with the airlines.

The airport has not had to draw any money from the federal relief dollars yet. According to Keller, the airport lost $380,000 in revenue in April and $125,000 in May, off from March projections of up to $800,000 in losses.

Keller also assured board members that construction projects planned for 2020 and beyond remain on schedule. The board approved the bid for the Marshall aviation project construction by Paramount Builders out of St. Albans of $6.7 million.

The Marshall aviation school construction is set to begin this summer. The US Customs building remains on track to be built in the fall totaling $2.4 million.

The board also approved the increase of the long-term parking garage fee by $1.