How will coronavirus pandemic impact plans for Chico Airport?

Continuing efforts to return commercial air service to Chico might be impacted by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the airline industry.

Posted: Apr 24, 2020 5:41 PM
Updated: Apr 24, 2020 5:42 PM

CHICO, Calif. - The airline industry has taken a massive hit due to the coronavirus pandemic. Limited flights and those that are in the sky are almost empty, due to stay-at-home orders and traveler restrictions.

Action News Now Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough looked into how what is happening on the national stage might impact plans for local growth.

One of the nation's largest airlines, Delta, just this week reported a $534 million loss for the first quarter.

The carrier anticipates the summer travel season plummeting 90% compared to this time last year. That economic crunch across the industry could now have a ripple effect on growth plans for Chico and ongoing efforts to return commercial air service to the region.

Yarbough spoke with Chico Public Works Director Erik Gustafson about coronavirus and the city's vision for growth in light of the pandemic.

“It’s a big concern for us as the coronavirus has caused demand for air travel to fall to zero,” says Gustafson. “Our hope is it recovers after this big downturn and pause; that in a couple of years we'll be back on track and hopefully attract commercial air service."

The federal government recently awarded Chico a $500,000 in a Small Commercial Air Service Development grant, known as SCASD.

The city has four years to use those funds, which will be part of a "revenue guarantee bank".

That is essentially a fund, in which money is set aside to assure a carrier choosing to establish air service in Chico will not lose money.

Even so, the coronavirus pandemic is adding another layer of uncertainty and new challenges to the process of securing an interested carrier.

“We've just sort of given airlines the space they need to figure out their business models and plans through this pandemic,” explains Gustafson. “But we hope to pick up conversations in the coming months when this is over.”

Gustafson says communication with potential carriers turned from discussing air service, to Chico offering airlines runway space to park any idled planes. Gustafson says to date, no airlines have taken the city up on that offer.

Regarding a timeline for possible air service? Gustafson says realistically it could be two or even three years before we might see a commercial deal.

As for the grant money, Gustafson says the city is able to request extensions on usage to move beyond the four-year deadline.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3559311

Reported Deaths: 51794
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles118923221241
Riverside2894503767
San Bernardino2860772783
Orange2607213982
San Diego2589823260
Santa Clara1102371777
Kern102627811
Fresno950151422
Sacramento929611464
Alameda802791241
Ventura77395834
San Joaquin665691082
Contra Costa62164674
Stanislaus55887946
Tulare47784746
Monterey42138327
San Mateo38872515
San Francisco34138398
Santa Barbara31763407
Solano30024164
Merced28915395
Sonoma28004298
Imperial26855589
Kings21951218
Placer19763232
San Luis Obispo19612227
Madera15414209
Santa Cruz14588183
Marin13136197
Yolo12787185
Shasta10969174
Butte10922160
El Dorado9095100
Napa899869
Sutter884597
San Benito575259
Yuba573336
Lassen560119
Tehama508152
Tuolumne394659
Nevada394074
Mendocino379643
Amador344841
Humboldt318033
Lake314140
Glenn221923
Colusa212813
Calaveras190547
Siskiyou174014
Inyo128736
Mono12114
Del Norte9875
Plumas6536
Modoc4524
Mariposa3957
Trinity3675
Sierra990
Alpine810
Unassigned00
Chico
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Hi: 63° Lo: 41°
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Oroville
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Chico
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Red Bluff
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Red Bluff
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Hi: 63° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 56°
Chico
Clear
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Hi: 65° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 55°
It was a bright and breezy Friday for northern California, however the wind has been much stronger over Modoc County where a High Wind Warning is in effect through this evening. Stronger wind and cooler air will define our weather Saturday.
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