Commercial airline passenger service is flying in and out of Greenville once again, albeit on a modified schedule.
American Airlines on Jan. 6 resumed its Charlotte service with a single flight daily to and from Pitt-Greenville Airport. The service will increase gradually, hopefully with as many as four daily flights in May, said the airport’s Executive Director Kim W. “Bill” Hopper.
“There is a lot of excitement,” Hopper said. “Air service is important to any community — especially smaller airports. We provide a great service to communities like Greenville. The service is vital to the economic vitality to the area.”
American Airlines, the airport’s only airline, suspended flights in October after the expiration of federal CARES Act support that required it to maintain services despite the pandemic’s negative impact on demand.
Greenville was one of 15 smaller U.S. cities to have its service suspended by the airlines.
Flights resumed Wednesday thanks to resumption of the CARES Act payroll support program, but they are reduced to one daily departure and arrival from Charlotte.
“It is starting slow,” said Hopper. “A year ago at this time we had five arrivals and five departures a day.”
More flights should be available in time, he said. “If you go on the reservation site, you will see that in a couple of months, flights start picking up in frequency a little bit. And if you go out to May, you will see right now there are four arrivals and four departures a day,” he said. “Our hopes are that things will progress well and they will maintain the schedule they have on the reservation system right now.”
Hopper said the support of the Greenville community helped make a difference.
“Strong advocacy from the local business community, the support of the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce and ultimately the continued support of our congressional delegation was necessary to make this [flights resuming] happen.”
In the meantime, Hopper said his staff has stayed busy with renovations and upgrades.
“All the major things are complete,” he added. “We are kind of in the wind-down.”
Customers should notice as they pull into the airport a newly resurfaced, repainted parking lot.
Other things, he said, might not be as noticeable, such as work on the runway.
“We are in the finishing stages of doing quite a bit of work on the airfield just outside the terminal — to the tune of about $3.9 million,” he said. The project, funded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), was already scheduled before the pandemic began.
“That worked out good [for us],” Hopper said.
Work has also been completed inside the terminal, including upholstery repairs.
Hopper said one of the most important things they have addressed is the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
“This is especially important in the COVID era,” he added. “We have done some major work on it. A lot of things had been deferred maintenance over the years and we took this opportunity to address some problems, while we didn’t have people to work around.
“We are in finishing stages of cleaning all the duct work, so it is nice and clean. And we have put in what are called MERV-13 filters that help filter out and alleviate some of the spread of COVID-19,” he said.