Summer travel up at North Central West Virginia Airport

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BRIDGEPORT — It’s been a busy summer at North Central West Virginia Airport, according to Director Rick Rock.

The airport served more than 5,800 passengers in June and more than 6,300 passengers in July, according to Rock.

“We’ve certainly seen a lot of pent-up demand come forth this summer,” he said. “People were anxious to get out, see the world and go to some good ole vacation destinations.”

Back in April 2020, just after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rock reported the airport had seen a passenger decline of around 90%.

“We were at 6,600 people enplaned for the first three months of the year. Now we’ve had 21 people for the month (of April). It’s a dramatic drop,” he said at the time.

The airport had around 2,000 passengers per month through February of this year, which Rock estimated was about half the number of passengers the airport would have had prior to the pandemic.

Part of the airport’s summer passenger uptick can be attributed to the recent additions to its flight offerings, Rock said.

“We had five days of Myrtle Beach (flights) and we added Destin (Florida), to our schedule,” he said. “More flights means more people.”

During their June meeting, members of the Benedum Airport Authority, the airport’s governing body, approved a $9.275 million budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22.

The budget is largely unchanged compared to last year’s, Rock said.

“Our budgets are based on historical data, and the main driver of our budgets is the amount of fuel that we sell,” he said. “Prior to COVID-19, we were at about 1.1 million gallons of fuel. Over the last 12 to 18 months, we’ve been somewhere around 850,000 gallons. And this budget represents [an estimate] of 900,000 gallons of fuel being sold.”

The airport expects to receive approximately $200,000 in federal grant funding over the next fiscal year, which will be used to fund various ongoing projects, Rock said.

The airport has around $6 million in cash on hand and remains in good financial shape, Rock said.

“We are trying to be very prudent with our expenses,” he said. “The whole goal for us is a sustainable budget.”

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