GREENSBORO, N.C. — Air travel hasn’t taken off in the same way since the start of the coronavirus pandemic nearly a year ago. Small business owners in Greensboro who depend on the sky-high industry are seeing the impact.
“The lack of air travel has certainly affected us,” said Ginah Soufia, who owns Wallstreet Deli, which is less than six miles from the airport runway. Before the coronavirus pandemic, her restaurant would be filled with people, many from out of town. “They’d stop in grab a bite and now we don’t see that as much.”
As flights were canceled, business trips halted and restrictions tightened, Soufia witnessed a major blow to her bottom line.
“So many people are working remotely,” she said. “The companies are not having meetings like they used to, they’re not requiring the catering that they did in the past.”
In 2019, state officials estimate the Piedmont Triad International Airport contributed $8.6 billion to the local economy when 1,078,247 people flew in or out of the airport compared to 378,313 flyers in 2020. That’s a 64.91% decrease.
Owner of Landflight Express Gabriel Osuji has seen the difference first-hand.
“Never a time of day will come we don’t have a single round,” Osuji said about his airport shuttle service in Greensboro. Before the coronavirus pandemic, his drivers would make up to 300 trips a month. Over the past several months his six drivers haven’t even made one to the airport.
Osuji’s drivers are out of work and his vehicles sit used in his parking lot. He is hanging on to hope that more people will be flying again soon.
“I know this is not going to last forever,” Osuji said. “It just depends on how long it’ll take for us to come back.”