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MCALLEN, Texas – COVID-19 has caused flight activity at McAllen International Airport to plummet but the City of McAllen’s airport director is hoping for a rebound in the coming months.

Elizabeth Suarez gave an update on airport activity during a recent McAllen Economic Development Corporation board meeting.

“Year-over-year the number of flights were down 28 percent. Seats in the market were down 24 percent. Enplanements were down 42 percent. Empty seats were at 70 percent. And the overall load factors down 18 percent,” Suarez reported.

Elizabeth Suarez

Emplanements means the number of people who board an airplane.

During her report to the MEDC board, Suarez displayed a power point presentation. The slideshow showed the figures for the first five months of 2019 and the first five months of 2020. 

During those early months of 2019, emplanements were 164,347, while empty seats were 31,095. For the same period in 2020, the figures showed emplanements at 95,799, and empty seats 52,892.

“It is a substantial change, remembering last year was our record setting year in terms of overall performance,” Suarez said.

“The third week of March, we were hit really hard with a 20 percent drop, and that continued. We had a 72 percent drop in the number of flights serving our airport, slightly picking up in May, with a 56 percent drop compared to last year. We went from average off 18 to 20 flights a day to an average three to five flights a day.”

Another slide in the power point presentation showed market share in the Rio Grande Valley. January thru May, McAllen International Airport had 44 percent of business, Valley International Airport in Harlingen had 42 percent, and Brownsville International Airport 14 percent.

Suarez said she was “hopeful” that McAllen airport is over the worst of it.

“It looks like leisure travel is what is picking up first, with the opening of Vegas and Allegiant to Orlando. We are starting to see some of that activity,” Suarez said.

“We are hoping to establish some kind of a growth pattern and trend for that leisure traveler. We remain really conservative with our projections for how we are going to end the year.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows McAllen International Airport. (Photo: Wendy Jo O’Bar/Livability).


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