Charlotte County economic driver Allegiant deals with pandemic


April 13, 2020

WINK News

April 10, 2020

With fewer people flying, the economy in Charlotte County, faces an uncertain future. Allegiant Air says it is burning through millions of dollars every day. It already halted construction of the Sunseeker Resort in Charlotte Harbor. And Punta Gorda Airport is a ghost town. And businesses all over Charlotte County are adapting.

County experts told us about the current impacts to Allegiant and PGD airport as well as the future of the local economy.

“It has just been different,” said Dave Gammon, the economic development director of Charlotte County. “What we have been doing is a change.”

That includes the Punta Gorda Airport, which brings $1.3 billion into the county every year.

“We recognize that this has had a tremendous impact on travel not just locally but around the country,” said Pamella Seay, the commissioner chair of Charlotte County Airport Authority.

And it has a big impact on airlines.

PGD airport’s sole commercial airline, Allegiant Air, estimates it’s burning up to $2.5 million of its cash reserves every day. And it projects flight capacity to be down 80% to 90% in April and May.

But Seay told us things could be worse for the budget airline.

“Allegiant is in a much better position than almost every other airlines in the industry,” Seay said.

Still, the the airline is affected from the sky to the ground, as Allegiant suspended construction on Sunseeker resort last month. Some are concerned about the project’s future. But Gammon said it’s too early to worry.

“If they take those tower cranes away, then I think there might be room for concern,” Gammon said. “But that is not what they are doing.”

It’s up to everyone in the county to help tourism and airlines bounce back after the virus peaks.

“Go out to the theme parks again,” Seay said. “Get out and do things again as soon as this has passed.”

Meanwhile, Allegiant has applied for a payroll support grant. We also asked the airline what the revenue loss means for the future of sunseeker.

“Construction has been suspended,” Allegiant shared in a statement. “We do not know how long the suspension might last, and won’t know until we better understand the arc of this pandemic and its long-term effects. We are in the same situation as other businesses, closely following federal and state guidance in a changing situation. At this time, we would also not be able to estimate an impact on the project opening.”

See more information from PGD airport:

  • The number of Allegiant A320s that landed at PGD was roughly the same March 2019 (706 planes) versus March 2020 (719 planes).
  • However, the planes had less passengers on them than usual. Passenger numbers were 31% lower in March 2020 ( 151,783 passengers) versus March 2019 (221,326 passengers)
  • Source- https://www.flypgd.com/airport-statistics/
  • Allegiant didn’t actually start canceling flights until late March.
  • The decrease in passengers and decrease in scheduled flights has affected PGD’s operations, so we’ve reduced the working hours of our employees by approximately 20%.
  • We’ve seen reductions in airline-associated revenues (parking fees and commissions from terminal concessions, rental cars, taxis and uber/lyft).
  • Other operations at PGD (aircraft fueling for private aircraft/charters, etc) and tenant business that are considered essential services (i.e. aircraft mechanics) are continuing to serve customers.
  • We have our Board Meeting next Thursday telephonically, and you are welcome to listen in for additional info. The agenda should be posted by this evening. https://www.flypgd.com/airport-authority/meeting-minutes-and-agendas/
  • Other COVID-19 related info here – https://www.flypgd.com/2020/03/17/updates/