GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – The coronavirus pandemic has led to some actual good news at Piedmont Triad International Airport.

Piedmont Triad International Airport (News & Record)

Although the number of passengers flying through PTI continues its slow but steady recovery from the effects of COVID-19, the amount of cargo handled by the airport has grown significantly – to some extent because of that same virus, airport officials report.

Cargo flowing through PTI increased by 14% in March from the previous year, and it is up by 8% year to date. But more remarkably it was also up by 50% from 2019. 

PTI already was leading the state in cargo, processing about 303,500 tons annually as of a year ago, aviationpros.com reported.

And the reason for that growth, PTI Executive Director Kevin Baker said, is in part because we adopted the trend of ordering goods and having them shipped to us during the pandemic, avoiding going into danger zones at stores.

Kevin Baker
Kevin Baker

“Cargo is up from 2019 because of significant growth in the home delivery of goods that escalated during COVID, but continues to this day,” Baker wrote in an email to WGHP. “It’s also up due to growth of operations at the FedEx Mid-Atlantic hub, but they too are likely influenced heavily by the home deliveries.”

Fed Ex operates its Mid-Atlantic Hub on Old Oak Ridge Road, where it employs about 1,000, and it has another large distribution center in Kernersville.

Meanwhile, passenger counts at PTI are improving, although they remain significantly below what they were before the pandemic paralyzed air travel in the spring of 2020.

The number of passengers who traveled through PTI in March was double the count for March 2021, which continued a year-over-year climb since January, but the rate remains significantly below the pre-pandemic marks of 2019. 

Through March passenger counts have risen 122% compared to the first three months of 2021. But they also are 27% below what they were in March 2019. The airport uses that year as a basis for comparison because 2020 was so significantly worse after the virus broke out.

But the improvement rate in April looks to be even better in May. PTI reports that the total number of seats booked for departures at PTI in May is 84,461, which is 42% more than May 2021 (59,500) but down 31% from May 2019 (122,040).

In a release of its monthly data, PTI also noted an increase for January in its load factor, described as the average percentage of available seats that were filled when the planes took off. 

The load factor was 55% in January 2022, which is six percentage points higher than January 2021. But it’s also 13 points lower than January 2019.