Airport numbers tick up, still lagging

HOUGHTON — As more services reopen, traffic at the Houghton County Memorial Airport has risen from its early-pandemic lows, though it is still well below normal, Airport Manager Dennis Hext said. 

Customers are down 87% from last year, Hext said. 

“We’re still hurting pretty bad, but the CARES Act has helped tremendously,” he said. The airport received $1.09 million through the bill, designed to blunt the impact of COVID-related drop-offs in business. 

Flights are about 40% full, Hext said. Two-a-day flights resumed this month after being dropped down to one for June. The federal government allowed for the temporary modification of the airport’s Essential Air Service contract with SkyWest, which mandates two flights a day

“We were running maybe 10 people a day out of there at the time,” Hext said. 

The improvement in bookings has plateaued due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, Hext said. 

Hext hopes to see revenue return to normal by this time next year, as June through October is when the airport normally receives the most customers.

Commissioner Glenn Anderson also updated the board on the census count. As of Monday, Houghton County had a 57.3% response rate, trailing the state (68%) and the U.S. (62%). 

One of the biggest drivers is snowbirds returning to the area who have not filled out their form, Anderson said. 

Dorm populations were counted with their occupancy levels as of March, Anderson said. However, many other students who live off-campus have yet to fill out their form, despite residing in Houghton for the majority of the year. 

Census workers are beginning to visit homes of people who have yet to fill out their form, Anderson said.


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