“Georgia depends on our airport tremendously,” said Atlanta city council member Marci Collier Overstreet. “This is just a really hard hit.”
During a budget briefing, airport officials showed a slide with four different paths recovery might take.
Hartsfield-Jackson’s slide on potential trajectories for recovery of passenger counts. Source: Hartsfield-Jackson
“One scenario that we are starting to look at a little bit more closely is what is referred to as the square root,” said Atlanta airport chief financial officer Greg Richardson. That would bring passenger growth to a “new normal… then it would grow at a normal rate moving forward.”
While some have forecast a slow L-shaped recovery, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said this week: “I don’t like the letter L because it never picks up again. … I’ve been more in the camp of the Nike swoosh.”
Richardson said another potential scenario is the W — in which "we would see a more immediate return of passengers," followed by another sharp decline due to a resurgence of the virus and restrictions in the fall or winter. "And then all of a sudden we would be falling back."
“We don’t want to lose sight of the impact that those scenarios could have on us,” he said.
Hartsfield-Jackson has closed Concourses B, E and parts of Concourses T and C. But a gradual recovery has begun, and the airport's plan for the return of passengers includes employee mask requirements and employee temperature scans.
The airport is preparing for the reopening of Concourse B based on Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines’ plans to resume operations there on June 25, said Hartsfield-Jackson general manager John Selden.
He said with Delta planning to return to as much as 50% of its previous level of domestic flying in Atlanta in July, the airport could have 800 or 900 flights a day.
That would still be down from an average of about 2,700 flights a day pre-COVID-19. Selden said the airport plans to defer airline rent for April-June 2020 until January-May 2021.
Hartsfield-Jackson has qualified for $338.5 million in federal stimulus funding from the CARES Act over a period of up to four years.
Richardson said the airport plans to use about $163 million of that over the current and upcoming fiscal year, leaving $175 million to use if conditions are worse than expected or to use in fiscal year 2022.
Hartsfield-Jackson, by the numbers
Total passengers, per July-June fiscal year
FY 2018: 105.2 million
FY 2019: 109.1 million
FY 2020, projected: 78.6 million
FY 2021, projected: 48.2 million