Friedman Memorial Airport

Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey saw a massive drop in use during March. 

As airports across the country continue to experience steep drop-offs in passenger loads due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, Friedman Memorial Airport (SUN) in Hailey is seeing similar repercussions, airport Manager Chris Pomeroy said.

Last month at SUN, 6,400 passengers boarded outgoing Alaska, Delta and United Airlines flights and 5,190 disembarked aircraft, according to Friedman Memorial Airport data. That represents more than a 50 percent decrease in commercial air traffic compared with March 2019, when airport officials saw around 12,250 enplanements and 11,630 deplanements.

Including general aviation traffic, SUN operations this month have been down by about 75 percent from last year, Pomeroy estimated.

Nationwide, commercial flight loads have taken a nosedive in April. Citing Transportation Security Administration data, Pomeroy said 97 percent fewer passengers moved through TSA checkpoints on Wednesday, April 8, compared with the same day last year.

Though he said he won’t have April data until the first part of May, the 97 percent decrease “seems consistent at SUN.”

He said the current average is about 14 takeoffs and landings per day, well under the 50 per day that are normal for this time of year. He said that includes air carriers, cargo and mail operators, Life Flights and limited general aviation traffic.

Asked whether the airport will begin using thermal scanning devices to screen passengers for fever, Pomeroy said the airport simply doesn’t have that power.

“The Airport Authority, its board and staff have no jurisdiction to implement screening measures at the airport,” he said. “However, it will cooperate with health officials if they determine such measures are appropriate.”

On Thursday, Brianna Bodily, a spokeswoman for the South Central Health District, told the Express that she doesn't think the health district has that authority, either. 

"From what I understand, the airport is primarily under federal and state jurisdiction," Bodily said. "Additionally, the health districts in Idaho have investigative and educational authority, but a screening would likely have to come from a local healthcare source like a hospital."

Asked the same question, Joy Prudek, a spokeswoman for St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center, thought possible airport screenings are outside the hospital's purview. "I don't think that's a St. Luke's question," she said. 

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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