Oakland International Airport exec: fliers ‘itching to hop aboard’
Slow COVID-19 rebound likely, says Bryant Francis, but travel should pick up
Oakland, Calif. – June 3, 2020: Coronavirus recovery could come slowly to the aviation sector, Oakland International Airport’s top executive warned today. But Bryant Francis expressed confidence that travelers would soon begin returning to the skies.
“Many life-long travelers, like myself, are itching to hop back on board,” the Port of Oakland’s Aviation Director said during a Zoom interview. “And we’re doing everything we can behind the scenes to be ready when passengers return in greater numbers.”
Oakland’s top aviation official spoke as part of a video series updating Port of Oakland operations. You can see the video HERE.
Mr. Francis said it could take 2-to-3 years for the aviation industry to recover from coronavirus. That’s because travel restrictions adopted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have devastated business, he explained. Mr. Francis said Oakland passenger volume dropped 60 percent in March and 95 percent in April. Similar declines are being reported worldwide.
“We had fewer than 50,000 passengers at Oakland in April,” the Aviation Director pointed out. “A year ago, in April, we had 1.1 million.”
The good news, Mr. Francis reported, is that surveys indicate pent-up desire among travelers to resume flying. What’s more, he said, U.S. regulators could ease restrictions on flying in coming months. The Aviation Director had advice for frustrated travelers:
- Watch for signals from government and industry that non-essential air travel may soon be welcome.
- Be alert for new travel requirements that could make flying more complicated.
- In the meantime, check schedules well ahead of time because airlines continue to monitor demand and adjust flights accordingly.
Mr. Francis said passenger erosion has darkened the Port of Oakland’s financial outlook. The damage is magnified because the Port doesn’t receive local tax revenue, as do other public agencies, he explained. The Port is reacting by cutting expenditures and shelving capital improvements, Mr. Francis added.
The Aviation Director insisted that his industry would bounce back once COVID-19 is better controlled. “I absolutely do see air travel recovering,” he said. “People want to travel again and we’ve gone above and beyond to make it safe in Oakland…from stepped up sanitization and social distancing to mandatory face masks and plexiglass shields at ticket counters and gates. We’re looking ahead to how we must change to improve the customer experience.”
About the Port of Oakland
The Port of Oakland oversees the Oakland Seaport, Oakland International Airport, and nearly 20 miles of waterfront including Jack London Square. The Port's 5-year strategic plan - Growth with Care - pairs business expansion with community benefits, envisioning more jobs and economic stimulus as the Port grows. Together with its business partners, the Port supports more than 84,000 jobs. Connect with the Port of Oakland and Oakland International Airport through Facebook, or with the Port on Twitter, YouTube, and at www.portofoakland.com.