By Associated Press - Thursday, July 2, 2020

KENAI, Alaska (AP) - The coronavirus pandemic and the bankruptcy of an air carrier have combined to drastically reduce travel through a Southcentral Alaska airport, an official said.

The Kenai Municipal Airport had 18,000 fewer passengers through May compared to same period during the previous year, The Peninsula Clarion reported Tuesday.

There were 6,441 passengers traveling out of Kenai in April 2019 and only 359 in April this year, Airport Manager Mary Bondurant said.

The airport had 7,198 passengers departures in May 2019 compared to 702 in May 2020.

The bankruptcy of RavnAir Group halted the carrier’s flights in early April, which Bondurant said “kind of put a stop to any real traveling out of the Kenai airport.”

RavnAir cited the economic impact of the coronavirus when the company stopped operating on April 5, laying off staff and filing for bankruptcy protection.

The company operated more than 400 flights per day on 72 aircraft until COVID-19 struck and passenger traffic dropped more than 90%.

Before the coronavirus hit the state, about 75% of passengers leaving Kenai were on RavnAir flights, with the rest using Grant Aviation Inc. of Anchorage, which still operates in Kenai, Bondurant said.

Grant operates nine-passenger airplanes, while RavnAir operated planes with more than 30 seats. The airport received about $400,000 annually in revenue from RavnAir and $130,000 from Grant prior to the pandemic, Bondurant said.

Bondurant would welcome the arrival of a new, larger carrier in Kenai.

“Hopefully, we’ll be successful in getting someone in here to pick that back up,” Bondurant said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some - especially older adults and people with existing health problems - it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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