AUSTIN, Texas - The drop-off area and inside the main terminal at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport remain wide open spaces. There are a few signs of change, not necessary on the departure and arrival screens, but at some food spots and gift shops, according to airport spokesperson Bryce Dubee.
"For example Salt Lick is open, Amy's Ice Cream is open, but some of the surrounding ones aren’t, it really depends on passenger demand, and what we are seeing,” said Dubee.
At times lines can be seen forming again, as there's only one TSA checkpoint that’s operating.
"I think it should only be for essential travel only for the time being at least," said a man taking a business trip out of Austin.
The April passenger count at Austin-Bergstrom took a hard hit from a year ago. On April 1st, there were 943 passengers flying out. A year ago, a little more than 25,000 departed on that date. By the 8th, the number dropped under 600, a loss of almost 26,000 people. Towards the end of the month, an upward trend started with daily passenger counts exceeding just over a thousand departures.
"It’s good to see it, but there is also precaution, you've got to be careful what you are doing," said a man as he watched his wife go through the TSA checkpoint.
Before the viral outbreak, Austin-Bergstrom was considered the second-fastest growing airport in the nation. That growth is why the airport authority has spent millions of dollars to expand. However, it’s hard to ignore that areas recently built, like Checkpoint 1, are now closed. That makes it hard to ignore how this situation factors into one of the biggest projects to date for the airport.
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The master plan for Austin-Bergstrom calls for some major changes by 2025, including a new main terminal, located between the current one and the parking garage, as well as a new concourse with 32 gates to the south linked with a sky bridge.
Dubee said the Airport Authority is still committed to this master plan. "Absolutely, there are no changes to anything, we do see a strong market here in Austin. And our commitment to support air service here in Austin has not changed," said Dubee.
Austin-Bergstrom's revenue stream, like many airports, could take a big hit because of the losses the airline industry is experiencing. To prepare for that, and what the eventual COVID-19 recovery will look like, a special task force was created. Construction delays are not yet in play, but apparently they are on the table.
"That’s still on the horizon, what those timelines look like at this point, we are just going to do some re-evaluation to see what our next steps are, in the immediate and then the long term future," said Dubee.
It would be speculation at this time, according to Dubee, trying to determine how far any construction dates may or may not move.
"It all depends on, right now, we are in the middle of a pandemic, and how recovery looks and the demand for passengers rebounds, post-COVID, is really going to be the telling point as to our next steps are."
Dubee told FOX 7 that there have been no major layoffs of airport employees, but some private contractors have made cutbacks.
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