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Air Travel In South Dakota Slowly Rebounding In Summer Months

Sioux Falls Regional Airport

Air travel across the United States has sharply dropped since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. South Dakota’s two major airports are taking precautions to ensure safe travel in the future.

According to a study published by Airlines for America, air travel in the United States at the height of the pandemic was virtually non-existent as the number of onboard passengers had dropped by nearly 100% at the beginning of April. Both Sioux Falls, and Rapid City Regional Airports say they’ve seen that decrease, even as those numbers begin to pick up slowly in the summer months. 

Dan Letellier is the Executive Director of the Sioux Falls Regional Airport. He says the process of ensuring safe flights is expected to be a slow and incremental process.

“Some of these quarantines need to be lifted in Europe or Hawaii, or wherever people typically want to travel, and the economy needs to rebound," Letellier says. "All of that is going to take a considerable amount of time.”

The Federal Aviation Administration recently granted $800 million to airports across the country as part of the CARES Act. 

Toni Broom is the Deputy Director of Finance and Administration for Rapid City Regional Airport. She says those funds are being used to improve the quality of the airport for the future.

“We received about $9.3 million, but it is over the course of five years," Broom says. "So, it’s very possible, by the end of the five years, if we’ve fully recovered, we may not have to use all those grant funds. But, we will be supplementing our budget with those funds to cover those operational costs.”

Both airports say they’re encouraging, but not mandating face coverings for passengers as they pass through the airports.