The Quad City International Airport is getting a $2.8 million boost from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Coronavirus Response Grant Program.

The Quad City Airport in Moline is getting $2.8 million in new federal Covid relief.

The program, funded under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020 (CRRSA), awarded $2 billion total to U.S. airports. This funding will continue to offset lost revenue and provide operational and payroll support. The Q-C airport previously received $8 million from the CARES Act.

“As a facility that supports nearly 500 jobs, nearly 100 of which are employed directly by the Metropolitan Airport Authority, this funding ensures that we can continue to provide the level of service that we are known for while keeping the MAA workforce fully intact,” Q-C airport executive director Benjamin Leischner said Wednesday morning.

“I want to thank our elected officials here in Illinois and at the federal level for their support of the transportation sector. Air travel is critical to our country’s infrastructure and here locally, the airport’s economic impact is more than $500 million per year,” he said. “This exceeded our expectations and we are thrilled.”

As the airport looks ahead to recovery, encouraging studies have emerged throughout the pandemic showing that air travel has some of the lowest rates of transmission, thanks to the filtration systems on board aircraft, according to an airport release.

A study issued on Feb. 11 by Harvard’s Aviation Public Health Initiative also examined the detailed health and safety of airports and concluded that the probability of being infected at an airport is very low.

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“The safety of air travel, paired with the vaccine rollout and pent-up demand are setting the industry up for a rebound,” said Leischner. “We believe the worst is behind us and are cautiously optimistic that we will continue to see improvements throughout 2021.”

Q-C Airport has experienced some early signs of stabilization and recovery, with passenger numbers hovering around 20,000 to 23,000 passengers per month. The airport also recently learned that service to Denver through United Airlines would resume Feb. 11.

Ben Leischner is executive director of the Quad City International Airport.

While a restart date for Delta’s service to Minneapolis and Detroit has not been announced, the airport remains optimistic that it will return in the second quarter.

The Moline airport served 306,260 total passengers last year, 58 percent fewer than 2019’s 721,999, the Metropolitan Airport Authority board of commissioners learned at last month’s board meeting.

Leischner said some of the decline stemmed from decisions of United Airlines to suspend nonstop flights to Denver last spring, and Delta to drop nonstop service to Minneapolis and Detroit, as well as Delta reducing aircraft capacity nationwide.

Before the pandemic, the Q-C airport’s four airlines served 11 nonstop hubs, or connecting cities, with hundreds of domestic and international connections beyond. With American Eagle, Allegiant, Delta, and United, the cities served typically have been Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Denver, Detroit, Las Vegas, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Orlando-Sanford, Phoenix-Mesa and St. Petersburg/Clearwater, and Ft. Myers area via Punta Gorda, Fla.

The Moline airport saw 60 percent fewer passengers in December 2020 compared to a year ago, and Delta lost the biggest percentage of passengers for the year – 71 percent, compared to a 62 percent decrease for United, 49 percent for American and 42 for Allegiant.

For more information, visit qcairport.com.

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Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.