On Monday and Tuesday, two inbound planes from Seattle—flights that prior to the coronavirus outbreak would typically carry about 150 passengers—brought 15 people into Hailey. 

Since late last week, decreased travel demand and lighter flight loads have become a new normal for the airport. 

“For perspective, as a comparison to March of 2019, overall Alaska [Airlines] flight occupancy was approximately 86 percent,” Airport Manager Chris Pomeroy said Thursday. “It appears Alaska is down in the mid-30 percent occupancy this March so far.”

In March of last year, Delta and United flights to Sun Valley were at about 71 percent capacity, Pomeroy said. This month, while Delta flights have been nearly 60 percent full, United flights have been in the mid-40 percent range. 

“In general, we are seeing flight loads decrease drastically over the past week,” Pomeroy said. 

Another new normal for airport officials has been misinformation circulating throughout the Wood River Valley.

Pomeroy said one such rumor is that the airport has plans to shut down. Without authorization or direction from the Federal Aviation Administration, he explained, the airport—which, as part of the national airport system, receives federal funding—can’t close itself to air traffic. (As of Thursday afternoon, no U.S. airports had received authorization from the FAA to close.)

The only scenarios in which the Friedman Memorial Airport could close include construction, an aircraft accident, snow removal or other operational needs, he said.

Another rumor airport staff has heard is that flights out of Sun Valley will be, or have been, cancelled. 

“To this point, there have been not any changes to airline flight schedules, and it’s important to note that flights at SUN naturally taper during the off season, which starts March 29,” Pomeroy said. “However, it is also important to know that this is an emerging situation and subject to change.”

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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