Airport sees drastic dip in passengers in 2020

Numbers follow national trend of pandemic impact on aviation industry.

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The Martha’s Vineyard Airport saw a significant decline of in-plane passengers in 2020. — Brian Dowd

Reflecting national trends, the Martha’s Vineyard Airport saw a 69 percent decline in plane passengers in 2020, but federal funding and fiscal management are keeping the airport up and running.

Speaking to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission Thursday, airport manager Geoff Freeman said in 2019, the airport served 50,351 passengers. In 2020, the airport served only 15,657 passengers.

“Well, that’s a big difference,” commissioner Kristen Zern said.

In the month of December, air traffic to the Island was down 14 percent, and plane passengers were down 53 percent, from December 2019. Overall in 2020, air traffic to the Vineyard was down 21 percent — fewer flights with many fewer passengers.

“We were on an increase in the months of October and November, but have since gone back down in December,” Freeman said.

Speaking to The Times by phone Friday, Freeman said the 50,351 passengers in 2019 was a decent number for the airport, but the pandemic left quite a harsh impact on the industry. “50,000 is historically around the average for this airport,” Freeman said. “But the 15,000 in-plane was something shocking.”

Freeman also told The Times the airport is cost-cutting and keeping expenses down as much as possible. “We’ve readjusted some pricing schedules for fuel and other things to help us weather the storm,” he said. “For an airport of our type, we’re doing pretty well.”

In other business, commissioners authorized property manager Kevin Brennan to meet with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and present the regional planning agency with plans for expansion and development of land at the airport to accommodate additional businesses.

Freeman said the airport was initially granted a certain amount of acreage and lots to be used. “It should not be as much a new project as a clarification of projects in the past,” Freeman said.

Commissioner Bob Zeltzer said the airport should focus on any environmental impact, and also benefits, of its proposed expansion, which would help local businesses.

There are 11 to 12 airport employee first responders getting their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine through a clinic at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

Freeman said he is in contact with the West Tisbury board of health to determine when additional airport staff, who are part of the transportation infrastructure, will be eligible to receive the vaccine.

1 COMMENT

  1. Despite the dropoff in passengers, it is noteworthy that passenger jet service destinations increased – there was nonstop service to Charlotte (a first), Philadelphia (first time for jets), and a second carrier to Washington Reagan (Jet Blue in addition to American).

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