Spotlight On: Laura Beebe, Airport Director, Palm Beach International Airport

Spotlight On: Laura Beebe, Airport Director, Palm Beach International Airport

2022-08-15T11:20:01-04:00August 15th, 2022|Aviation, Palm Beach, Spotlight On, Transportation|

2 min read August 2022 In an Interview with Invest:, Laura Beebe, airport director of the Palm Beach International Airport, talked about how they fared during the pandemic and managed to make gains during a time when the industry was struggling. Beebe discussed that although they are receiving funding and revenues are up, the national issues of supply chain are slowing down the progress of their renovation projects. Beebe also shared the airport’s unique take on street pricing as well as her outlook for the future of the airport and aviation in Palm Beach County. 

What projects will the recent infrastructure bill help you to accomplish? 

We are working on an expansion project for Concourse B, which will be about 56,000 square feet of additional space, so that is taking up a lot of our focus right now. We have additional funding, but cost estimates have doubled so we are looking for additional funding sources. We have many projects in progress; however, most of them are rehabilitation focused. We are also working on a new general aviation customs facility, a new aircraft rescue and firefighting facility and planning for an expanded customs facility. Those are just a few of the bigger projects.

Right now, it’s really about trying to manage issues related to the supply chain and costs.  For example, we have a project that requires an electrical component that has a 66-week lead time, which is unheard of pre-pandemic. Supply chain issues on top of cost increases are slowing down the projects that we were originally expecting to expedite.  

What are some highlights or milestones that stand out over the last year? 

We welcomed new ultra low cost carriers, Avelo and Breeze Airlines. We also welcomed the return of Sun Country Airlines. Even though the pandemic has been challenging, we have been able to make some gains notwithstanding the flux of the industry. 

In 2021, we were named the 8th best domestic airport in Travel and Leisure and the 7th best by Conde Nast Traveler. It is great to know that, while airports are still struggling with challenges in the industry, our customers still appreciate us. 

Is street pricing within airports a trend you have seen in the industry? 

The trend with most airports throughout the country is street price plus 10-15%. The costs of airport operations are more expensive because of security and other costs that are not applicable to other types of facilities located off-airport, so increased pricing is often pushed onto customers. We have taken the position that street pricing is required for essential items such as food and beverages. We work hard to keep food prices in line with street pricing, but it definitely is not a trend throughout the industry. 

How far off do you think your airport is from reaching pre-pandemic levels of travel? 

In terms of airline capacity, we are back at 2019 levels, but we are still down about 15% in total passengers.  The good news is that we are very close to 2019 levels and have seen the resurgence of travel, which is reflected in the use of our parking facilities and revenue. 

Sun destinations have recovered very quickly, and Florida is king in that respect. However, the industry is in flux right now with labor shortages creating a lack of flight crews that affect flight availability.  

What is your outlook on aviation in Palm Beach County for the next few years? 

Private aviation has surged. Initially when the pandemic started, there was a pull back all around, but many people decided that private aviation was a safer method of travel.  We are still seeing it surge. There are months where we are up 45-50% in general aviation traffic alone.  Due to  the resurgence of commercial travel and general aviation, we have been very busy in terms of aircraft operations. We have seen our revenue stabilize so we are in a good position from a financial standpoint. Our primary focus going forward will be ensuring that we have the facilities ready as traffic increases to meet the demand.  

I don’t think there is a vacant aircraft hangar in South Florida. General aviation remains strong so I don’t see any slowdown in growth, particularly since those travelers are less price sensitive. 

Overall, PBI is in a good position from a traffic and facility standpoint so we expect to see continued growth as conditions begin to stabilize in terms of labor costs, supply chain issues and airline staffing. 

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