Bradley Airport, Surrounding Businesses Dramatically Affected By Reduced Air Travel

The Connecticut Airport Authority says travel restrictions stunted a short period of recovery this summer.

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Those who’ve been to Bradley Airport over the last several months have most likely noticed a significant decrease in congestion. Airport authorities said in April Bradley's traffic was down 97% from that point a year before.

Passengers are slowly returning to the airport but there’s still a striking difference.

“Totally different, empty. I mean it’s very sparsely populated,” said Barbara Clews, who was traveling to Florida Thursday.

People who fly on a regular basis, like country music singer Tyler Rich, said the scene is not different than a lot of other airports.

“Throughout the pandemic the planes are empty. The airports are empty,” said Rich who was returning to Los Angeles after being in Connecticut to visit family.

The impact at Bradley has been profound. The Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) said the last quarter of the fiscal year they were down about $10 million in terms of budgeted airport revenues. Revenues that are mainly passenger driven.

“We need passengers to be parking in the parking lot. We need passengers to spend money at the concessions,” said CAA Executive Director Kevin Dillon.

That need extends to businesses beyond the airport too, including off-site parking lots like Suffield’s Park N’ Fly. Thursday, Park N’ Fly estimated 150 cars on its lot. A lot that normally holds 1500.  They said their business is down 90% as a result in decreased Bradley air travel.

“We have about 10 to 20 cars coming in a day. Normally that’s about a 100 to 200 per day,” said assistant manager Jessica Madore.

Further indication of the financial setback, the airport garage itself has slashed rates to $8 a day, forcing private lots to cut their prices too. Park N’ Fly is now discounted by 50% to just under $7 a day.

Still, of the 17 Park N’ Fly locations nationwide, Madore said Connecticut’s location is the slowest.

“I think that’s because of all the restrictions and quarantining that we have,” she said.

Off-site parking lots aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch. Bradley’s cell phone lot is normally packed with private car services but not today.

“A year ago, you’d see this lot full of Uber drivers,” said driver, Billy McCowan.

McCowan said he used to make money at Bradley. Now he calls it a wasteland and only comes to the airport when he knows there’s a popular flight scheduled to land. Instead, he said, most of his time is now spent in the city.

“Now just like everything else going on in the world, it’s just upside down,” said McCowan.  “You gotta adjusts where you can make the money.”

Airport Authority Executive Director, Kevin Dillon said there was a slight recovery at Bradley in May and June. That was before many of the travel restrictions were put in place.

“That has really stagnated any level of recovery that we’ve seen here at Bradley Airport,” said Dillon.

On average the Airport Authority said Bradley is now down between 75% and 80% from a year ago. To cut costs, Bradley is in a hiring freeze and has made 10% cuts to operating costs, twice.

“What we’re trying to do here is preserve people’s jobs,” said Dillon.

The Airport Authority did explain that through the CARES Act, Bradley Airport did receive about $28 million in federal assistance. They said that covers about three months of operating expenses.

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