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For Minot International Airport Director Rick Feltner, the $2.73 million the airport recently received through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act couldn’t have come at a better time.
With commercial passenger travel cut by approximately 96 percent nationwide due to the coronavirus pandemic, Feltner said the funding from the CARES Act will benefit the airport and the residents of Minot.
“This program will keep us whole from a revenue standpoint,” Feltner said. “This funding is a real lifesaver for us. Even though commercial passenger flights are down, we still have to be here 24/7 for cargo operations, medical flights, general aviation, and others, and we have a large facility to maintain.”
Feltner said national statistics show passenger travel down by approximately 96 percent. “In Minot, I would say we’re pretty consistent with that number,” he said. “On a typical Friday in February, we had 12 departures with between 700 and 800 passengers. Today (April 17), we had three departures with probably less than 40 passengers total.”
Part of the CARES Act is designed to provide airports with direct funding to offset the loss of revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fewer flights reduce an airport’s revenue in a number of ways, including a loss of rental car transactions, landing fees, fuel sales, food and beverage sales, and other items.
“Without this funding, we’d have some difficult decisions to make on how we would keep operating, including the potential of having to ask Minot residents for more funding,” Feltner said. “Now, we won’t have to do that because this program will keep us whole from a revenue standpoint, which is a direct benefit to the city and its residents.”
As part of the CARES Act, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it will completely fund capital projects in 2020 that had previously been approved. The FAA typically funds 90 percent of project costs, with the state of North Dakota and the City of Minot funding 5 percent each.
Two projects are scheduled to be completed this year at the Minot facility; a project to pave the general aviation ramp and a reconstruction and expansion of the facility’s south cargo apron. The FAA changes will save the city $250,000.
Feltner said another program that is also part of the CARES Act provides funding to airlines to help them maintain service to cities across the country.