Writer: Joey Garrand
2 min read March 2021 — 2020 was a hard-hitting year for the aviation industry, which was already squeezing by on tight margins. Airports in the Orlando region are in the midst of recovery but it will be awhile before they are back to 2019 levels.
When 2020 began, expectations were high for another year like 2019. “Orlando International Airport, in 2019, became the first airport in Florida to surpass 50 million annual passengers. Our central location, emphasis on customer service and close proximity to 60% of Florida’s population helped make Orlando the preferred choice for air travel in the state,” said Phil Brown, CEO for Orlando International Airport, in Invest: Orlando 2020.
However, a very different year unfolded in 2020.
For the month of Januaryopens PDF file 2020, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority reported traffic of 4,376,649 total passengers, 3,803,184 domestic and 573,465 international. By May 2020, domestic passenger traffic was down 90.2% with 367,177 total passengers, and international traffic was off 99.7% with 1,932 total passengers.
In Januaryopens PDF file 2021, total passenger traffic amounted to 1,950,641, 1,869,575 being domestic and 81,066 international. In other words, domestic travel in Orlando is down nearly 50% YOY and international travel is down approximately 86%. However, this is an improvement from the traffic experienced during the onset of the pandemic.
Of course, Florida is uniquely positioned to recover at a quicker pace than other areas, “The sunshine states are seeing much more travel demand than before, on a relative basis, while it evaporated in the Northeast,” said Ankit Gupta, United’s vice president for domestic network planning, in a Bloomberg interview.
Orlando specifically, among all of Florida, has historically experienced the most air traffic and is perhaps best positioned for a recovery. In an interview for Invest: Orlando 2020, George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, explained why Orlando is unique compared to the rest of Florida. “The experiences that everyone can have here — from having a safari experience to going to theme parks and other areas that represent many close and up-front personal experiences. Those are the kinds of things that make Orlando unique. If you want to know what the future looks like and discover things you’ve never imagined you might have, you can find that in one of our theme parks. The uniqueness of being able to do so much in one place, in one period of time, is rare. Visitors know that no matter when they come, they will always find new activities to experience.”
The general consensus is that the aviation industry won’t return to pre-COVID levels until late 2023 or early 2024. Despite the drying up of business travel, leisure travel is slowly recovering. And as stated by Gupta, the sunshine states are benefitting from that leisure travel. It’s likely that Orlando will reach pre-pandemic aviation traffic levels sooner than most other regions.
Photo Credit: https://www.orlando.gov/