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'For a community our size, we have great air service' | QCIA's Executive Director Optimistic About Airport's Future

The Quad City International Airport's Executive Director, Ben Leischner, Joins GMQC to Discuss COVID-19 Pandemic Impact on Airline, Airport Industry.
Credit: WQAD

MOLINE, Ill. — In mid-March, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the COVID-19 Pandemic is "worse than 9/11 for the airline industry." The Executive Director of the Quad City International Airport agrees.

However, during a live interview on Good Morning Quad Cities on May 27, 2020, Ben Leischner said these two events are different:

"9/11 was a largely isolated event to the United States and it resulted in several weeks of basically down time as officials worked to understand what the impacts on travel were going to be," Leischner said. "Unlike 9/11, we’re going into our second or third month of travel restrictions and really reduced travel around the world, not just the United States."

In April alone, travel was down 95% at QCIA. Leischner said they've seen a "strong uptick" in May and are expecting June to be even stronger, but here's the reality:

"We expect to see reduced passenger numbers at least through the first quarter of next year."

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With a big drop in travelers, airlines are cutting routes. 

Delta Airlines suspended service to Minneapolis/St. Paul, which has been used by QCIA for a long time. That was expected, explained Leischner, and the silver lining is what that Department of Transportation decided last week:

"DOT approved airlines to basically cancel service to a handful of communities across the country," he said. 

"We’re not going to be on that list. One thing we have going for us is we’ve got a strong route structure as an airport our size, so the communities that are losing service or routes, that was known ahead of time. They were not the best performers."

That's why Leischner is overall optimistic during these uncertain times. 

The QCIA is undergoing several improvement projects. One of them being a $6 million runway renovation funded by the Federal Aviation Administration. Plus, there's a renewed focus on what our market needs - and already has:

"For a community our size, we have great air service," Leischner said. 

"It doesn’t mean we’re not lacking certain things, so we’ve brought in a consultant that specializes in airline economics that tells our story as the Quad Cities and help us identify markets that would provide an opportunity that would obviously thrive for our community."

So, when you're ready to fly - the Quad City International Airport will be there.