MADISON (WKOW) -- Joy Naegle was not sure what to expect when she stepped off the plane at the Dane County Regional Airport to visit family in the area. She was pleasantly surprised to see no lines or crowds.
"Yes. It's a very nice perk."
The lack of people may be nice for passengers, but it is troubling for airport director Kim Jones.
"We were down essentially 98% of our traffic in one month."
The coronavirus pandemic brought the airport to a near halt. Jones estimates the airport typically serves 2,500-3,500 passengers per day. However, in mid-April, they had a day where only 62 passengers showed up.
"There have been three days so far that we've been over 500 in the last week, and I hope to see that continue."
The airport went from about 50 flights a day to approximately four. They have since increased to about 10 with more scheduled to return in July. Jones says no airlines have expressed any intent to permanently leave Madison. Instead, she expects to see the numbers slowly inch back to normal over time.
"It appeared that it would be 3-5 years. I think now people in the industry are thinking 2-3 years, maybe."
The lack of passengers put a huge dent in revenue. However, the airport did receive $14.7 million in funding through the CARES Act. Jones says they avoided layoffs and furloughs. Although, they did have to adjust some hours. Jones is expecting the number of passengers to eventually return to pre-coronavirus numbers. In fact, they are considering moving ahead with plans for an expansion of three additional gates.
"I think we are very well-positioned both financially and with our partners."
The airport is also making some changes to keep passengers safe. There are additional hand sanitizing stations around the airport with additional cleaning being done.