On Feb. 24, the Maryland Board of Public Works (BPW) unanimously approved financial relief measures to support food and retail concessions at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. The package expands assistance previously enacted by BWI Marshall Airport in April to provide relief from COVID-19 impacts.
The rent relief and lease extensions will support airport restaurants and retailers as they recover from the economic crisis brought on by the global pandemic. In a separate vote, the BPW also approved a fixed rent relief package for rental car companies at BWI Marshall.
“Our administration remains committed to helping the many local businesses, including airport restaurants and shops, that have been hit hard by the pandemic and its impact on travel,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “Last spring, BWI Marshall Airport took aggressive action to help its concessions partners, and with the approval of this package, we will provide further assistance to help these businesses survive as the air travel industry recovers.”
In April, BWI Marshall and its concessions developer, Fraport Maryland, provided fixed rent relief to the airport’s food and retail subtenants through December 2020. The Feb. 24 BPW meeting was chaired by Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford – representing Governor Hogan – and also included members Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot. The BPW vote provides additional relief to airport concessions through June 2021. The overall 15 months of waived fixed rent represents approximately $16.4 million in relief, easing the financial burden to concessions operators while allowing continued service to travelers. Beginning in July 2021, a tiered fixed rent structure will be in place until the end of the contract.
“These emergency relief measures will help provide stability for our airport partners,” said Maryland Transportation Secretary Greg Slater. “As Maryland’s economy rebounds from the effects of COVID-19, our concessions and their valuable employees will be crucial to providing the services air travelers need.”
The BPW action also extends the agreement with Fraport Maryland for an additional year, until March 31, 2023. Subleases between Fraport and the food and retail operators will receive a two-year extension as part of the contract supplement approved by the board. The sublease extensions will give concessions subtenants added time to recover financially from the pandemic’s economic impact.
“Many of our airport concessions are small, minority-owned businesses that do not have the resources to withstand prolonged losses,” said Ricky Smith, executive director of BWI Marshall Airport. “We are acting to save jobs, protect small businesses and ensure a strong level of service for our passengers.”
The airport’s concessions program includes about 120 locations and 192,000 square feet of assigned leased space. Currently, about 57 percent of BWI Marshall’s concessions are operating. In spring 2020, only about 20 percent of shops and restaurants in the airport were open to serve travelers. In 2020, total concessions sales fell by approximately 61 percent compared to 2019.
For rental car companies at BWI Marshall, the fixed rent relief package is retroactive from April 1, 2020 to December 30, 2020. Beginning January 1, 2021, until the end of the contract, the fixed rent is tiered. The total rent relief for rental car firms equates to about $13 million.
MDOT MAA applied Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding received last year to help offset these revenue losses.
BWI Marshall Airport served nearly 27 million passengers in 2019. At the low point in April 2020 during the early months of the pandemic, passenger traffic at BWI Marshall was down 96 percent compared to the previous year. While airline travel has stabilized somewhat in recent months, passenger traffic at BWI Marshall remains down about 60% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Despite the impact of COVID-19, BWI Marshall remains the busiest airport in the Washington-Baltimore region. The airport and its partners are focused on safe and healthy travel. Customers are reminded the BWI Marshall Airport terminal remains open only to ticketed passengers and employees, and that masks or face coverings are required in the terminal.
Other health and safety initiatives at BWI Marshall Airport include enhanced cleaning and sanitation; hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the terminal; protective barriers at security checkpoints, ticket counters and information desks; and physical distance markers in high-traffic areas. Health and safety information is provided on information displays and overhead announcements.