Rapid City Regional Airport waives fees for tenants amid coronavirus

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - If you head to Rapid City Regional Airport you can probably hear a pin drop as there are plenty of empty seats as the virus pandemic is affecting the number of passengers.

Rapid City Regional Airport looks practically empty Tuesday afternoon. (KOTA TV)

This past week, the airport saw a decrease of about 20 to 30 percent in scheduled enplanements compared to last year.

However, the numbers have changed where the decline is now 70 percent this week, according to a report comprised by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and sent to the Rapid City Regional Airport.

For example, on March 24, 2019 there was 666 scheduled enplanements. However, this year to this date, there are only 168 scheduled enplanements.

The dramatic decline in passengers means a major hit in revenue affecting the tenants like the restaurant, the gift shop and the car rental companies.

Every month, almost all the tenants have to pay the airport in what's called a minimum annual guarantee (MAG).

MAG is a payment created to ensure a safety net in years when revenues drop.

In a Rapid City Regional Airport memo sent to the Airport Board of Directors by Patrick Dame, the airport's executive director, he said, "the current drop off in passengers was unforeseeable and unprecedented."

The airport is going to wave the monthly payment for three months to help their tenants, which can equate to about $700,000 dollars.

Toni Broom, the airport's deputy director, said at the end of the year tenants are contracted to pay the airport a percentage of their sales, which will still apply.

Between the parking lot and the car rental companies, these services play a big factor by bringing in about 50 percent of the airport's revenue.

"But the good news on that is people are doing what's been instructed," Broom said. "If they are staying home and not getting on those airplanes that helps and they are following those recommendations from the federal government and the CDC. So we don't like to see those hits in revenues but we also want to do our part too, by helping in any way we can in this situation."

Broom said there are some rumors that airlines have increased services to Rapid City however, that is definitely not the case as some flights are returning with just six members on board.

Despite the decline in numbers, the airport is still open and flights still come in and out daily.

WestJet Air Center President Linda Rydstrom said the full effects of the coronavirus affecting the company are not something she can foresee.

"It is by far the most difficult time we have had in our 45 years of operations," Rydstrom said. "I am confident we will make it through this challenging time and will be stronger and better as a result. We are fortunate to live in the best country in the world!"