Jobs at Little Rock Airport fell 40% after virus attack

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Employment at most tenants at Bill and Hillary Clinton / Adams Field National Airport in Little Rock fell 40% through March 31 due to the covid-19 pandemic.

A survey of airport staff showed that the 11 participating tenants employed 411 people as of March 1, 2020. As of March 31, they employed 246 people, 165 less than a year earlier.

Of the 165, a total of 143 were put on leave and 22 took early retirement, according to the survey.

Survey participants included Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, car rental companies as well as HMS Host, the food and beverage dealer.

American Airlines, which has the largest share of passengers at Clinton National, did not participate.

The investigation came as passengers continue to return to the skies, but not at the same level as before the pandemic.

In March, a total of 109,299 passengers passed through the airport and it was the first time that Clinton National has seen more than 100,000 passengers in a month since the start of the pandemic. The last time the airport reached this benchmark was in February 2020, the last full month before the start of the pandemic, when 151,122 passengers were counted.

March also marked the first time the airport had more passengers in the same month a year earlier. March totals were 26% higher than the 86,229 Clinton National saw in March 2020.

As a result, passenger traffic for the first three months of the year fell only 38.3%. Clinton National welcomed a total of 395,926 passengers through March 31, up from 244,141 passengers during the same period in 2020.

Northwest Arkansas National Airport at Highfill continues to recover although at a slower pace as it was so dependent on business travelers before the pandemic. Leisure travel is recovering faster than business travel. Clinton National’s passenger mix looks at leisure travelers.

The Clinton National tenant survey came in response to questions from Bill Walker and other members of the Little Rock Municipal Airport commission, which sets airport policy.

Walker opposed granting relief to HMS Host without requiring the concessionaire to open all of its outlets at the airport. The commission waived the minimum annual guarantees that HMS Host and other tenants are required to pay on a monthly basis.

Other tenants, such as major airlines, have received billions of dollars under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, a $ 2 trillion aid package that Congress passed last year to offset the economic impact of blockages used to try to keep the pandemic at bay.

But other tenants “were just trying to survive,” said John Rutledge, chairman of the commission.

Bryan Malinowski, executive director of the airport, told the commission that he was not aware of any commercial service airport in the United States that has not provided some kind of relief to its tenants.

“In some cases they have deferred rents,” he said. “In some cases, they’ve waived rents. Many of these airports have agreed to extend concession agreements from two to four years to give concessionaires the chance to recover from the impact of the pandemic.”

Baltimore / Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport, for example, waived fixed rents totaling $ 16.4 million to its tenants until June.

Walker asked if any of the tenants receiving assistance at other airports were required to stay open and thus pay their workers.

Malinowski responded that requiring conditions for relief was frowned upon by the Federal Aviation Administration, which told airports in June 2020 that “unjustified obstacles to considering relief do not support the approach as much. all in the same boat “that sponsors should adopt during this time. public health emergency.”

“Would you say that an unnecessary burden would not be willing to provide health insurance to their employees, whether as part of a temporary layoff or to lay them off?” Walker replied.

Another commissioner, Patrick Schueck, said the CARES law takes care of people who lost their jobs during the pandemic.

They received “$ 600 tax-free in their pockets on top of regular state unemployment benefits, which allowed them to move on and live,” he said.

Rutledge said all conditions for airport aid were imposed at the federal level, not at the local or state level.

“There was an obvious understanding that there would be companies that needed to downsize and therefore additional unemployment benefit was provided,” he said. “That’s all of the above. It’s not.”

Walker conceded, to a point.

“It’s all of the above,” he said. “But what has been made clear to me is that it is important for us if we are offering help that we do it in the spirit of trying to keep things open, of trying to keep people at work. “

At Clinton National HMS Host employed 79 before the pandemic in its outlets which include a Chick-fil-A, two Starbucks, a Burger King and a Chili’s. It practically closed its doors deep in the pandemic, but has since reopened some of its outlets at the airport.

The dealership initially put 77 employees on leave as of March 17, 2020. The company continued to offer health insurance to employees on leave until June 15, according to the survey.

Eventually, a total of 44 employees were laid off in October. HMS Host has since rehired 4 employees. It has a post-pandemic workforce of 26 people.

The largest employer among the renters was Enterprise Holdings, which operates the Alamo Rent A Car, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and National Car Rental brands.

Delta Airlines, which received funding from the CARES Act, did not have to lay off any of its 26 employees or cut jobs. Fourteen employees took early retirement. The airline now has 16 employees at the airport.

The airport has received about $ 30 million in federal aid and is expected to receive more. It has not had to lay off any of its 150 or so employees.


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