Dear friends and colleagues,
I hope you are doing well and staying healthy during these extraordinary times. I wanted to update you on how San Diego International Airport is continuing to adjust to the impacts of COVID-19, as well as provide insight on our recovery plans.
As you may know, the airport has remained open as a critical piece of the nation’s transportation infrastructure, helping to move much-needed supplies and cargo and assisting those with essential travel needs. Obviously, our passenger volumes have decreased significantly, and for good reason. But we want you to know that when air travelers are ready to return to SAN in greater numbers, we will be ready with a series of modifications and protocols to help ensure the health and safety of our passengers and employees.
As you can imagine, we’ve been fielding a constant stream of questions from the community, our partner agencies and stakeholders such as yourselves. I’d like to share some of the most frequently asked questions with you.
What is the airport doing to make air travel as safe as possible in light of the coronavirus?
At SAN, we are constantly adjusting our operations to better ensure health and safety in light of COVID-19. Our airlines and concessionaires are beginning to install plexiglass sneeze guards at key points throughout the terminals, and the Airport Authority is doing the same in our offices. Other efforts include the installation of floor decals to illustrate the six-foot social distancing requirements, signage and video display messages throughout the terminals that serve as a reminder to practice preventive health measures, and continued increased cleaning of high touch points.
Facial coverings are required for all passengers, visitors, tenants, contractors and employees while on airport property, excluding those with a medical or mental health condition, or developmental disability that prevents wearing a facial covering. Most airlines are also requiring facial coverings to board.
Is anyone at all traveling these days?
As you may have read in the news, the number of people through our TSA checkpoints is down about 95 percent from this time last year. And we anticipate that departing passenger volume in fiscal year 2021 will be about half of the 13 million we expected pre-virus.
And yet, as county and state leaders ease some restrictions, we’ve begun to see air travel cautiously pick up. On May 1 we saw more than 2,000 departing passengers, and on May 7 we had 2,500 departing passengers. This is still only about 5 percent of a typical, pre-virus day, but it represents a small, measurable improvement.
If I need to travel during this time, or pick someone up at the airport, what should I know and how should I prepare?
If you have an essential travel need, it is important to stay in close contact with your airline as the date of your flight approaches. Airline schedules have been fluctuating unpredictably. Although there are no crowds at the airport, please leave ample time to get to the airport and pass through security.
Wear a facial covering, as it is required on airport property.
We are temporarily consolidating some terminal operations to reduce costs and help preserve TSA resources during a time of greatly reduced demand for travel. This will ensure we can continue to provide a safe and efficient experience for those with essential travel needs. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Effective May 7, Terminal 1 East and Terminal 2 East are closed to passenger operations. Southwest Airlines is still using its existing ticket counters in Terminal 1 East; however, its flights now operate out of the Terminal 1 West rotunda.
In Terminal 2, Alaska Airlines and American Airlines have moved their ticketing and gate operations to Terminal 2 West. Their ticket counters can now be found next to Delta.
We are monitoring the situation in the terminals on a continual basis. The decision to reopen Terminal 1 East and Terminal 2 East will be based on future flight schedules, passenger volumes and social distancing requirements.
Our concessions offerings are limited to essential items such as bottled water, to-go snacks and over-the-counter medicines.
Our cell phone lot is temporarily closed, however, you can wait for 10 minutes at no charge in our terminal parking lots.
The City is planning some major resurfacing work on Harbor Drive in the coming days and weeks. Be prepared for potential delays.
How have the airport’s finances been impacted by the crisis?
Due to the dramatic drops we’ve seen in airline service and passengers through the terminal, we’ve implemented a Financial Resilience Plan which enacts measures to trim expenses, including a hiring freeze, a reduction in non-essential expenses and delaying $170 million worth of certain non-mission critical capital improvement projects. We have also aggressively cut our costs and estimate saving at least $22 million in this fiscal year (ending June 30). We have also taken a very hard look at reducing expenses for the FY21 budget.
To conserve energy, water and other resources during this time of low demand, we have closed some areas inside the terminals and also parking facilities, in addition to curtailing shuttle services. Those will re-open and restart as needed, always following careful consideration of health and safety.
Has the airport received federal assistance?
In April, San Diego International Airport was awarded $91 million through the CARES Act. The Airport Authority plans to use the funds for operating expenses and airport debt payments. The award of these funds will be tremendously helpful as we navigate the next fiscal year. We will proceed with caution and continue to make wise and prudent financial decisions as we navigate this crisis.
What is the status of the effort to replace Terminal 1?
We are proceeding cautiously with the Airport Development Plan (ADP), which is still awaiting federal environmental review and state Coastal Commission permits. It’s important to note we are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating impacts of COVID-19 on the ADP and all other projects and programs at the airport. The ADP contains several decision points, and as we approach each one, we have the opportunity to weigh all factors and determine the best course of action moving forward. The Airport Authority remains in close contact with tenants, stakeholders and partner agencies on this critically needed project.
In closing, I also wanted you to know that I was asked by San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer and County Board of Supervisors Chairman Greg Cox to join an advisory group charged with preparing recommendations for the region’s economic reactivation and recovery. I’ve been honored to be a part of this collaborative group and work with leaders as we find ways to safely return to a new normal.
I feel confident San Diego will always be a desirable place to visit. When you’re ready to fly again, we’ll be ready to serve you.
Kimberly J. Becker
President / CEO