Airport continues mission in uncertain times

Airlines are starting their service later this summer.

Martha's Vineyard Airport has had reduced traffic as a result of the ongoing pandemic, but carriers are expected to still provide service this summer.

In April of this year, Cape Air saw 26 passengers board their aircraft out of Martha’s Vineyard (MVY) Airport — a 94 percent drop from the year before.

Historically, airport director Cindi Martin told The Times, air traffic to and from the airport is at its highest between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Spring traffic was depressed at MVY Airport as a result of COVID-19 (the same for airports nationwide).

And although activity at the airport is still reduced, Martin said, nationwide trends point to an increase in air traffic every day.

Currently, Cape Air is the only carrier serving the airport, but Martin said larger national carriers do still intend to provide service to the Island this summer. JetBlue has pushed the start of its season from the conventional date of mid-May out to the first of July, and will continue service through the fall. Delta and American Airlines will both be starting in late June, and will end their service shortly after Labor Day. 

Martin said that last year, Delta and American started late too.

The social distancing aspect of flying has, according to Martin, been a challenge for carriers as they manage the logistics of having passengers in an enclosed aircraft. Because of this, TSA at the airport is working on putting together and having in place some social distancing protocols for keeping passengers separate.

Business travel at the airport and nationwide is anticipated to be slow to get back up to speed, according to Martin, although uncertainty abounds with regard to what this summer will mean for airports. “We really don’t know what this summer will look like. It’s going to be interesting to see what the numbers are when the season is over,” Martin said. “We have never had to manage anything like this.”

As an airport, staff and administration are approaching the season by taking as many health and safety precautions as possible to ensure the well-being of staff and customers.

The airport has already been doing enhanced cleaning, and Martin said that has become the norm for daily operations for the foreseeable future. “Some things will stick. There is no doubt that air travel is going to look different system-wide for people,” Martin said.

According to Martin, employees have been performing health checks on themselves before they come to work, and are implementing new protocols for personal protective equipment and hygiene.

Whether or not traffic to and from the airport is drastically different, Martin said, the facility is obligated to provide service to passengers. “Regardless of whether one airplane lands, or 100 planes land, we have to continue to operate our facility,” Martin said. 

The airport is hiring the same amount of staff as they would any other summer, in order to be prepared.