COVID-19 drives 2020 passenger traffic to record low at LVIA

With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping the world shut down for most of 2020, travel was at a minimum. The story was no different in the Lehigh Valley where the Lehigh Valley International Airport saw the biggest passenger traffic drop in its history.

At the same time, with people stuck at home and ordering goods online, e-commerce drove cargo volume at the airport to a record high.

According to Tom Stoudt, executive director of the Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority, 390,764 passengers traveled through the airport in 2020. That’s a more than 57% decline from 2019.

On the air cargo side, Stoudt said the airport processed more than 210 million pounds of cargo, the highest volume the airport has ever handled and nearly 15% higher than in 2019.

Even the holidays were slow for air travel.

Passenger traffic during Thanksgiving week declined approximately 53% and Christmas followed with only 27,631 passengers traveling through the airport in December, a 61.7% decrease from December of last year.

Despite the pandemic and the resulting reduction in service, the airport did have some good news on the travel end including the arrival of a two-aircraft Allegiant Crew Base.

That brought more than 60 new jobs to the region as well as new air service to Sarasota and Chicago-Midway.

Also, United Airlines expanded services with daily non-stop service to Washington-Dulles International Airport.

“Adding three new routes during a time of great uncertainty surrounding commercial air service reflects the strong commitment by our airline partners to ensure options for the Lehigh Valley and surrounding communities,” said Stoudt.

Overall, however, each of the airlines at LVIA did see a decline in December. United reported a total passenger decrease of 67.4%, Delta dropped 65.6%, American declined 63.6%, and Allegiant was down 56.1%.

United Airlines launches its newest regional plane at LVIA

United Airlines debuted its newest regional plane at LVIA and Harrisburg International airports. (Submitted) –

United Airlines introduced its newest regional plane as part of a national tour last week, offering travelers flying out of Lehigh Valley and Harrisburg International airports the opportunity to travel first-class on short regional trips.

During a stop at Harrisburg last week, United executives highlighted the features of the CRJ-550, a 50-seat, two-cabin aircraft, according to a news release.

United developed the regional plane with business customers in mind, many of whom travel between airports like Lehigh Valley International Airport in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, and United’s hub in Chicago.

The plane offers economy class seating in addition to economy, economy-plus and first-class seating. The planes have 20 seats in economy class, 20 in economy-plus and 10 in first-class.

The cabin offers more legroom, space for roller bags and a self-serve refreshment center for first-class passengers.

“Having this aircraft serving business travelers in the Lehigh Valley certainly enhances the customer experience at ABE [Allentown Bethlehem Easton airport] and makes our airport an attractive option for flights to Chicago,” said Thomas Stoudt, executive director of Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority. “You typically hear about aircraft leg room and comfort shrinking on passengers, but United has reversed that trend by transforming a 70-seat regional jet to 50 seats which creates a very comfortable cabin for everyone.”

United began offering the service on Oct. 27 and will continue to expand the service as it brings additional CRJ-550 aircraft into its fleet, said United officials.


Airport says passenger travel up nearly 30 percent in April

With the start of summer travel season around the bend, Lehigh Valley International Airport reported a nearly 30 percent increase in passenger traffic in April compared to the same month last year.

Lehigh Valley International Airport reported a nearly 30 percent increase in passenger traffic last month. – File photo

The Hanover Township, Lehigh County-based airport has seen steady passenger increases each month for nearly two years.

Last month, 83,560 passengers traveled through the airport, a 27.28 percent increase from April 2018, according to the report. These figures mark the second-highest single-month total since 2011, the report said.

All four carriers reported increases. American Airlines reported a jump of 53.3 percent, followed by Allegiant up 25 percent, Delta up 17 percent and United Airlines up 4.3 percent.

A number of factors contributed to the increase, said Colin Riccobon, spokesperson for Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, the organization that owns and operates the airport.

“The twice-daily service to Chicago produced a lot of positive momentum, both leisure and business,” Riccobon said. The service, aboard American Airlines, started in April.

Spring break for college students and their families also contributed.

“We noticed a travel surge during spring break,” Riccobon said, adding that more growth is expected this summer. The airport considers June 1 through Aug. 31 its summer travel season, Riccobon said.

Airlines for America, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association, expects a record number of travelers this summer. Its forecast shows 257.4 million people will travel on U.S. airlines this summer, a 3.4 percent increase over last summer.

Seasonal service to Nashville from LVIA began Friday.  In June, service starts to Savannah/Hilton Head aboard Allegiant, two more routes that could push passenger figures higher.
In anticipation, the airport authority recently repaved an overflow lot for employees that it will now use for additional passenger parking, Riccobon said.