VIA hopeful numbers continue to trend upward

Elsa Cavazos/Valley Morning Star The entrance sign at Valley International Airport is seen Monday afternoon in Harlingen. Airport officials report passenger numbers in May are down 82 percent year-over-year.

HARLINGEN — As the coronavirus pandemic continues to create hardships, communities and businesses are faced with the task of recovering from and adapting to these trying times.

During a meeting held Friday, the City of Harlingen Valley International Airport (VIA) Board discussed June reports and safety measures they’ve implemented.

According to director of aviation Marvin “Marv” Esterly, the amount of airline passengers is way off compared to where it was.

In June, Southwest Airlines was down 73 percent compared to last year. United Airlines was down 81 percent. American Airlines was down 64 percent, and Frontier Airlines was down 73 percent.

Overall for the year, Esterly said VIA is down 21.4 percent.

“I think there’s at least a glimmer of light as last month I was reporting that we thought we would be off about 77 percent over last year, but we’re at 74 percent so a little bit better than we projected,” Esterly said. “It was good to have the big uptick in the first six months of the fiscal year. That really helped us out, but we’re still down.”

Coinciding with the timing of the pandemic, VIA’s number of passengers began to go down in the beginning of the year.

“You can see us coming down starting in February down to March and April where we hit pretty much rock bottom. We’ve been climbing out of that hole slowly over the last few months,” Esterly said. “We hope that continues despite a lot that’s going on in the pandemic at this point. It’s really making the airlines nervous.”

According to Esterly, VIA’s reports compared to other airports in the Valley are about the same.

“We have about the same dip and we’re starting to come out of it. The RGV is climbing out of the hole,” he said. “All of them are starting to trend up. Hopefully, that trend continues.”

Esterly said the number of VIA’s website users in June was 4,602, and this amount was greater compared to May.

Additionally, VIA’s Facebook page had a 200 follower increase from May to June.

According to Esterly, VIA is continuing to open its marketing along with the opening of the economy.

“We want to show the citizens all that we’ve done here at the airport to promote social distancing, as well as keeping them and our employees safe,” Esterly said. “We’re also going to highlight the airline schedules because they are ever changing at this point so we want to make sure that they know what’s going on.”

Some of the VIA’s implemented safety measures include — disinfecting high touch surface areas, adding hand sanitizing stations throughout the terminal facility, installing Plexiglass barriers and taking temperature checks of employees every morning.