LOUISVILLE, Ky. — “Rising to the Challenge” was the theme of the 2020 year in review media briefing held Friday at the Louisville Regional Airport Authority (LRAA) administrative offices. The presentation highlighted the many accomplishments of the LRAA despite the worldwide pandemic that turned the airline industry on its head.
PANDEMIC RESPONSE: Before COVID-19, Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) was on pace to break another all-time passenger record. The airport team quickly pivoted as the pandemic spread to ensure the terminal was clean and safe for passengers. Virtually overnight, the SDF team responded with increased cleaning, sanitation and hand sanitizer stations, a Travel Healthy online hub, healthy travel tips and social distancing signage and announcements. SDF also led the industry, becoming one of the first airports in the country to launch a virtual information center.
SOUTHWEST AND ALLEGIANT ADD FLIGHTS: Even though overall passenger levels dropped significantly during 2020, there were some bright spots, including new flights to Atlanta and Fort Myers aboard Southwest Airlines and to Charleston aboard Allegiant. And despite the challenges facing the industry, SDF carriers offer service to 33 nonstop destinations.
CARGO AND LOGISTICS: The world focused its attention on Louisville as the COVID-19 vaccine was (and still is) distributed throughout the country via UPS Worldport. The growth of cargo flights offset some of the financial strain airports across the globe experienced due to a drop in commercial passenger traffic. SDF is now the fourth busiest cargo airport in the world and the second busiest in North America.
ECONOMIC IMPACT: The LRAA also released economic impact data in 2020. The region’s economy is powered by aviation, providing a whopping $10.4 billion impact, generating nearly 83,000 jobs and contributing $451.1 million in state and local tax revenue.
INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT TRIPLED: More than $91 million was invested in airfield and terminal improvements compared to an average of $22 million. That investment generated 566 new jobs at a time when the community really needed them. Projects included a new rental car facility, parking enhancements, covered walkways, improved terminal access and a new USO lounge for troops and their families.
LOOKING AHEAD: As the aviation industry recovers and travelers return to the skies later in 2021, LRAA plans to invest $75 million in new passenger amenities and airfield improvements. New boarding bridges, elevators and escalator rehabilitation and more spacious gates are planned. Plus, the airport will be building the largest geothermal well field in the country at SDF, adding efficiency and reducing the airport’s environmental footprint.
“We are positioned very well for a vibrant future,” said Dan Mann, Executive Director. “Despite significant headwinds last year, as we move forward, we will invest in what matters most – great people, excellent customer service, exceptional facilities and we will do it all in a financially sound manner.”
The Louisville Regional Airport Authority owns and operates the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) and Bowman Field Airport (LOU). Aviation is an economic powerhouse for the region, generating $10.4 billion in economic impact annually. Six airlines offer nonstop service to 33 nonstop destinations from SDF. The airport is the second busiest cargo airport in North America as home of UPS Worldport, moving vaccines, products and tons of precious cargo worldwide.