Dayton airport passenger, cargo numbers fall as layoffs mount

Two airlines that fly out of Dayton International Airport have announced plans to lay off a total of nearly 280 workers in what is shaping up to be the bleakest time for aviation in perhaps decades.

PSA Airlines and Air Wisconsin have informed the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services that they intend to lay off 230 and 50 of their Dayton employees, respectively, by fall. The duration of the layoffs at this point is unknown.

“It will be dependent on the increase in travel demands and United Airline’s need for Air Wisconsin’s flying services,” Tina Vos, the airline’s human resources managing director, said in a July 24 letter to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

It’s the second round of layoffs announced in as many weeks by airlines operating out of Dayton International, which, like other airports, is seeing dramatically falling passenger numbers.

“Right now, things are a total disaster,” said Adam Pilarski, senior vice president with Chantilly, Va.-based aviation consulting firm Avitas Inc. “And they will continue to be a disaster for some time.”

Social distancing requirements, coupled with a pronounced recession, have combined to greatly reduce travel, Pilarski said.

“Nothing great is going to happen soon,” he said.

PSA Airlines and Air Wisconsin have each said their layoffs are planned for October. Airlines and contractors for airlines who received cash from federal payroll aid agreed not to lay off workers until Oct. 1. Labor unions are pushing for further aid.

The Appleton, Wisc.-based airline employs mechanics and a supply clerk in Dayton, according to the list of affected positions the company provided to the state.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wiped out jobs across the aviation industry nationally and globally.

“Real business is not going to happen for quite some time,” Pilarski said. “Real business is face to face.”

ExplorePSA Airlines to lay off 229 Dayton workers

Air Wisconsin has been a regional airline in the United States since 1965, flying for United Airlines as United Express in the Midwest and East Coast, operating CRJ-200 regional jets.

Dayton International is enduring a challenging time. According to the airport’s most recent enplanement data, passenger enplanements year-to-date (as of June) were down 57.4%, 187,708 this year compared to 440,676 at the same point last year.

In just the month of June this year, enplanements at the airport were put at 17,754, down 78.2% from the 81,559 reached in June 2019.

Air cargo tonnage is also down, although not as dramatically. As of June, year-to-date, total cargo tonnage was put at 3,355.05 tons, down 19.3% from the 4,158.3 tons reached year to date last June.

For the month of June alone, the Dayton airport saw 533 tons of cargo, down nearly 28% from the 736.4 tons achieved in June 2019.

Gilbert Turner, the Dayton airport’s interim director, said he could not comment for this story but said an interview may be possible later. A PSA Airlines spokeswoman did not respond to a message seeking comment.

A message was left also with an Air Wisconsin Airlines representative.

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