ABQ Sunport Operations at Record Low, Continues to Provide Essential Services Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Albuquerque International Sunport is continuing its proactive steps and procedures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 both inside the terminal and into the community.
A number of measures have been put in place, including enhanced cleaning and sanitation procedures with a focus on high-touchpoint public areas, additional cleaning of restroom facilities, and the addition of public hand sanitizer stations. The State Department of Health is running an information booth in the terminal, consulting with passengers upon arrival and providing the most up-to-date information, additional resources, and recommendations for self-isolation due to COVID-19.
“We never like to see record low numbers when it comes to airport traffic, but in light of the coronavirus pandemic, this is the best thing for our community and we appreciate that travelers are taking this seriously and staying home,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “While most of us think of the airport as a throughway for travel, the truth is the Sunport is much more than that. Maintaining essential airport operations is vital to our community – for Kirtland Air Force Base, for our hospitals, and for cargo facilities transporting many of the essentials we all need during this time.”
While the airport remains open, the sharp decline in passenger traffic is palpable. On average, the Sunport sees upwards of 15,000 arriving and departing passengers per day. Over the course of the outbreak, that number has hit unprecedented lows, down nearly 90 percent. As a result, and following the State’s guidelines, more than half of the Sunport’s bars, restaurants, and retail concessions are closed. Those that remain open are on limited hours and only offering take out service.
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the Sunport plays a vital, emergency response role for Albuquerque and New Mexico. Aside from commercial air traffic, the Sunport operates jointly with Kirtland Air Force Base, is home to cargo facilities for both UPS and FedEx, and facilitates medevac services for hospitals all over the state.
“Often people focus on the public facing sides of an airport – the travelers and airlines – it’s easy to forget the role airports play in the logistics of emergency operations by supporting state-wide response and providing a base for the distribution of supplies,” said Nyika Allen, Director of Aviation for the City of Albuquerque. “Our partnership with cargo air carriers, Kirtland Air Force Base, and our many tenants providing essential services is more important now than ever.”
One such partner is CSI Aviation, an FAA certified air carrier specializing in medical flight services 24/7. CSI is the largest air ambulance service based at the Sunport and provides critical, advanced life support air ambulance services throughout the southwestern states, including transportation for Albuquerque-based specialists flying to small cities for clinics that do not have the required medical specialists. CSI is also a contractor to Health and Human Services and FEMA, providing air charter services in support of natural disasters, evacuations and emergencies.
Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, the Sunport must maintain operations for these essential services, including those of KAFB. Kirtland runs vital training and national security missions that must continue, making maintained runway operation essential. In addition, the Sunport strictly follows the rules and guidelines set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration. FAA grant assurances obligate airports to operate aeronautical facilities and common use areas for the benefit of the public. Excluding climatic weather conditions, a temporary closure of an airport requires the authorization of the FAA.
In addition to following federal guidelines for operation and travel during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Sunport has a communicable disease response plan in place to take any necessary action to protect the welfare of travelers and employees of the Sunport. Officials are in close contact with federal, state, and local agencies monitoring the situation as it continues to evolve.