Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Delta Departs PIA

Peoria, IL –Delta service from Peoria has become a casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Delta petitioned the US DOT in May to suspend service to all of its destinations from Peoria, which took effect in June.  Delta just recently informed the Metropolitan Airport Authority of Peoria that as of last week, they were changing the suspension into a termination.  This change does not have much impact from a practical standpoint, since Delta had already discontinued flying.  It does mean that the Airport Authority will have to work even harder with the community to get them to come back to Peoria.

Recently, PIA had experienced a record setting year in 2019 with 689,416 passengers traveling to and from PIA.  January and February began strong in 2020 with record-setting passenger totals until travel took a hit in mid-March, which saw totals of about half of the previous year’s number.  Traffic dropped 96% for a total of 2,928 travelers in April 2020 (April 2019 – 59,321).  Through October 2020, PIA has only seen 276,197 passengers due to the pandemic, which is the worst year since 1973.  While the Airport Authority does not have solid data on the purpose of passenger’s trips, anecdotal information indicates that business travelers are not flying and that most of the airport’s passengers are leisure travelers.  The three traditional airlines (American, Delta, United) depend heavily on business travel for revenue.

“While it doesn’t change anything in the short term, we will have to work hard with the business community to attract Delta back to PIA,” said Gene Olson, Director of Airports for Metropolitan Airport Authority of Peoria. “The community recently showed great support to help us attract Nashville service on Allegiant.  We will need to see that same type of community backing in order to entice Delta back in the future.”

Across the nation, airports are seeing reduced numbers of flights in response to decreased passenger demand.  Normally PIA would see 115 flights a week in December, but only about 36 per week are scheduled this December.  Though bleak, these reductions on a percentage basis are on par or smaller than national figures.

Flying locally is now more important than ever, as the Airport Authority works to retain the service we have and regain the service that has been lost.  The Airport Authority urges Central Illinois residents to take advantage of the benefits of flying from your hometown airport rather than risking the uncertainties of driving to a larger airport with larger crowds and longer check-in lines while paying for parking and travel along the way. 

PIA still offers great connections with American Airlines service to Dallas, Charlotte and Chicago and United offering daily service to Chicago.  Allegiant has maintained all of its destinations from PIA, currently offering direct flights to Ft. Myers/Punta Gorda, Orlando/ Sanford, and Tampa/St. Pete in Florida; Phoenix/Mesa, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Nashville, Tennessee (Destin and Nashville are seasonal destinations).  PIA continues to provides the best mix of connections to major connecting hub airports and direct flights to popular vacation destinations. 

“While Delta has discontinued their presence in Peoria, we’re hopeful that they will return in the near future”, said Olson.  “They have provided great service in the past, and Peoria has a significant business travel market.  I’m sure that Delta will want to tap into that market once the business traveler returns.”

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