The Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Commission approved a pandemic plan during an emergency teleconference meeting Friday, March 27.
The plan outlines how the airport will continue to run following Gov. Tim Walz’s shelter in place order, set to begin 11:59 p.m. Friday.
“This draft does change how we conduct ourselves as a staff,” Airport Director Steve Wright said during the meeting. “It goes kind of contrary to current employee policies where we do require employees to come to work. We are setting up ways that some of our staff can work from home and continue to do airport business.”
The airport will remain open and available to the public, with the following conditions:
The public may continue to access the SkyWest/Delta passenger airline terminal for outbound and inbound flights to the full extent SkyWest Airlines is operating as Delta Connection continues to provide scheduled flights. Travelers are encouraged to contact Delta Air Lines at 1-800-221-1212 or visit delta.com to purchase tickets or check flight status.
To practice social distancing, the General Aviation Terminal building will be restricted to pilots and passengers. Pilots and passengers should contact NorthPoint Aviation at 218-829-3398 to pre-schedule services, allowing General Aviation to continue to meet the aeronautical needs of the Brainerd lakes region.
Wing’s Airport Café will continue to offer takeout and curbside pickup to the community, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday. Orders can be placed by calling 218-828-0206.
Airport tenants offering critical services will continue business as usual. Everyone is encouraged to practice social distancing when interacting with airport-based businesses.
Airport administration offices will be closed during the shelter in place order, but remain available through electronic means.
Many airport employees will continue working as before, while others will continue duties from home. Operations personnel will disinfect and clean the general aviation terminal regularly, Wright said. The airport’s custodial staff will not work at this time, but will continue to get paid the regular, part-time salary and must be available to come in should other staff fall ill.
“Continuing to choose BRD will be worth it,” Wright stated in a news release Friday afternoon. “Our men and women at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport are eager to serve the central Minnesota region to achieve the same record-breaking progress that was taking place prior to this pandemic.”
The airport’s pandemic plan will remain in place as long as Walz’s shelter in place order continues. It is currently set to end April 10, though Wright said the airport’s plan will continue to be in effect if Walz extends his executive order.
Eventually, Wright said airport staff and commission members will have to come up with a post-pandemic recovery plan, as air traffic is down 90% right now and nearly 100% on the commercial side.
“There’s some recreation flying going on, and we are going to encourage pilots to come out and recreate in accordance with the governor’s stay at home order,” Wright said during the meeting. “Get outside, use your airplane and fly. It’s a great time to do it.”
But with fuel sales down and, along with the airport’s revenue from passengers, Wright said he’s not sure what exactly the future will look like. While the federal government’s coronavirus stimulus bill includes $10 billion in assistance for airports, Wright said he does not know how that will trickle down to the Brainerd airport.
“A lot of that data is going to come in over the next two weeks, and we may have to revise this plan or terminate this plan and enter into a new plan as we respond to this pandemic,” Wright said.
Airport commission chair Jeff Czeczok said the commission is committed to supporting airport tenants and employees at this time.
“This is a difficult time. I think I can safely say for myself, whatever you need from us, we will try to assist in any way we can,” Czeczok told Wright at the end of Friday’s meeting. “... I pray that everybody stays well, and let’s get through this.”
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