Jun. 24—The local airport hit a new milestone last month in its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.
The 14,853 passengers who departed on planes flying out of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Internation Airport in May represented more than half the departures in May 2019, the first time the airport hit 50 percent of a pre-pandemic monthly total. It's also four times as many departures as last May.
In May 2019, 27,305 departed the airport, a May record. That came during a period of 17 monthly records in 19 months, a streak that ended with the pandemic's full-blown arrival in March 2020.
"The reason for the increase is more people are opting to fly the country as it continues to reopen," assistant airport director Gary Borthwick said, substituting for absent director Carl Beardsley Jr., who was attending an out-of-town airport conference. "As you can see, the seat availability also has come up 95%."
He said the percentage of available plane seats that sold doubled from last year.
"So we're seeing a great return from last year and it should continue," he said. "Hopefully we will get some more flights in here to make that happen."
The figures haven't improved enough to return the airport to its pre-pandemic, financial almost breaking even point.
Borthwick said airport operations recorded a loss of $215,826 in May, though that's better than the $390,232 loss in May 2020.
So far this year, the airport has lost $1,492,264, compared to $664,247 in 2020, which had fully operational months in January and February of last year.
A federal COVID-19 recovery grant of more than $19.8 million is keeping the airport in business.
The airport board also:
—Accepted the resignation of custodian Robert Petrini.
—Bid farewell to board member David Pedri, the Luzerne County manager who will resign that job July 6 to lead the nonprofit Luzerne Foundation.
"It's been a pleasure, Dave, you've been a real gentlemen and done a great job," Lackawanna County board member and Commissioner Jerry Notarianni said.
Pedri called the airport board "a jewel" and talked about the pleasure of watching the airport grow, overcome the pandemic and start returning to its former performance levels.
"I have no doubt that we're leaving it in great hands," he said.
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