Written by Brian J. Grefe
2020 started out to be an exceptional year for the Central Wisconsin Airport (CWA). January and February saw the most passengers at CWA for those two months ever, and business was BOOMING for our airport stakeholders.
But that all changed in March, when COVID-19 hit the United States…
By the end of March 2020, the airport saw a 95% decline in passengers. This reduction directly impacted the airport and all of its stakeholders’ revenues. Passenger numbers drive everything at the airport — parking, concessions, rental cars, ground transportation, advertising, and more.
With the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in late March, CWA received a reasonable assurance that we would maintain, at a minimum, five times weekly service on American, Delta, and United Airlines. This service was then secured when the airlines accepted financial assistance offered by the CARES Act. The CARES Act also provided financial relief to CWA in the form of a grant to assist with operational expenses like payroll, utilities, and debt service payments.
Along with this federal aid, drastic reductions in spending at CWA have allowed the airport to weather the storm of the coronavirus pandemic thus far. We have not laid off any airport employees — although we haven’t filled any open positions either — and we’ve been able to fulfill some development commitments that we had made pre-pandemic. (As it turns out, a global pandemic that halts travel plans makes for the perfect time to complete construction work at an airport as there are relatively few passengers to inconvenience with the noise, unsightliness, and redirection that comes with such a large-scale project!)
Renovation & Construction Projects at CWA
Our most noticeable development project was the renovation of the airport’s concourse. The concourse was one of the few areas of the airport’s terminal building that was not changed with the 2014 airport remodel. While this wasn’t a complete remodel like the previous project, with over 20 years of wear and tear on the concourse, very nearly everything needed to be updated.
Now, as ticketed passengers enter the concourse, they can experience a design that complements the rest of the terminal.
When passengers fly into Central Wisconsin, they are welcomed by a facility that reflects the beauty of the region. Some of these improvements include:
- A new, full-service Blind Rooster Café and Market with a commercial kitchen
- Loads of charging stations
- Privacy rooms
- Lounge seating
- Touch-free restrooms
- A giant chess set (available for guests at no charge)
Access Road Construction & Taxi Lane Reconstruction
Last fall, Ascension Wisconsin Spirit Medical Transport announced they would construct a medical transport hangar at the Central Wisconsin Airport to support their regional medical services. With the support of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Bureau of Aeronautics, CWA is constructing a new access road and reconstructing a taxi lane that will serve Spirit Medical Transport, existing tenants, and future development. All three of these projects are scheduled to be completed by September 2020.
The Central Wisconsin Joint Airport Board and the surrounding community couldn’t be more excited to have Spirit Medical Transport as a partner at the airport. Spirit holds the medical transport industry’s most respected and highest level of accreditation from The Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS).
In addition, other outdoor projects at the airport have included new landscaping and a parking lot reconfiguration. We now only have one primary parking lot, with an upgraded parking access control system. Our western lot will be closed until passenger numbers increase. The closure of the western lot will allow for better snow removal and maintenance in the main lot.
CWA a Temporary Home for Unneeded Delta Airlines Planes
Delta Airlines, through its wholly owned, regional subsidiary Endeavor Air, was also able to utilize the Central Wisconsin Airport during their downturn in business as a result of the pandemic. Twenty-two — nearly half of their fleet of Canadair Regional Jet CRJ-200 aircraft — were parked on our ramp at one time. After Memorial Day, as Safer at Home orders were lifted, those jets began to return to service. Today, only three remain.
Changes at CWA Amid COVID-19
Air travel at the Central Wisconsin Airport has been increasing. By August, we will be up to 8 flights daily. (Before COVID, there were 10–11 daily departures, depending on the time of year.)
When passengers do return to air travel, they’ll notice there have been some changes to how Central Wisconsin Airport operates under COVID…
Your hometown airport in Mosinee — and the airlines — have changed policies and procedures based on CDC guidelines, giving passengers increased confidence to travel safely by air when necessary. Naturally, social distancing is recommended at all times. For your protection, all employees now are required to wear facemasks in all public areas. Airline policies require customers to wear masks at all touch points, such as ticketing, the gate counter, and onboard the aircraft.
Our airlines are also deep-cleaning and are fogging with disinfectant between each flight. Onboard the aircraft at CWA, High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters in the aircraft remove dust, allergens, bacteria, viruses, and other particles from the air in pressurized cabins and cockpits. HEPA has a particle-removal efficiency of 99.99% and has similar performance to the type of filters used in hospital operating rooms and other sensitive environments. The system also introduces filtered air into the cabin every 2–6 minutes.
On behalf of all of the partners at CWA, we ask that you do your part to keep everyone safe, too. If you feel sick, please don’t travel. American, Delta, and United Airlines have generous fee waiver and rebooking options. Contact your airline for details.
When you’re ready to fly again, CWA will be here for you —
with a whole new look & convenient amenities you’re sure to appreciate.
Brian J. Grefe
Airport Director | Central Wisconsin Airport
Brian has been serving as Airport Director at Central Wisconsin Airport (CWA) since February 2016. Prior to CWA, he worked at airports in Aspen, CO, and in Duluth, MN. With his wife and two sons, he is now living in Rib Mountain. Email Brian Grefe.
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