SRQ Staff Gets a Big Thank You for Their Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Nov. 18, 2020

Nov. 18—MANATEE — During the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority meeting on Tuesday, there were three Allegiant airliners parked at the gate, cars parked in long and short-term parking, and passengers lined up at the ticket counter.

No, it wasn't back to the go-go days prior to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, when SRQ was one of the fastest-growing airports in the United States. But it was better than Sarasota Bradenton Airport was doing just three short years ago before the arrival of Allegiant.

Thursday, the airport authority voted unanimously to award airport workers a bonus, before Christmas, of about 3.5 percent of their annual salary in recognition of their work during a very difficult year. It is double what they would see in a normal year.

Rick Piccolo said the staff has had a can-do attitude throughout a year that saw passenger traffic drop by 95 percent in April, followed by months of cleaning and new safety precautions to keep passengers safe.

The year also saw a driver smash a hole in the passenger terminal with his speeding pickup truck and come to a rest at the rental car counter, as airport workers ducked out of the way.

Kristin Incrocci, who ended her term as airport authority chair on Thursday, said the call she received in December about the crash from Piccolo, airport president and CEO, was probably the worst day of the year.

Within a week, most of the damage had been repaired. A significant part of that was completed by airport staff, in what Piccolo called an "all-hands-on-deck" response.

Incrocci's best day? When she got the news last week that Southwest Airlines was planning to launch service at SRQ, she said.

Piccolo told his staff in advance only that that a VIP was coming to the airport and that he needed to have the terminal looking its best, including completing a landscaping project out front.

Several workers guessed incorrectly that it might be the governor.

The Southwest official was impressed with what he saw at SRQ and told Piccolo that the pride of ownership showed.

Southwest's announcement that it is coming to SRQ was a morale boost for everyone, Piccolo said.

To date, Southwest has not announced its destinations, but Piccolo said he expects there to be some news in the next week or so. Southwest will be taking over terminal space at SRQ from JetBlue, which will be moved elsewhere in the terminal.

"We have a lot of work to do," Piccolo said.

Passenger traffic has been steadily rebounding at SRQ. In October, passenger traffic climbed to 69 percent of what it had been in the same month a year earlier.

Allegiant starts it inaugural flight from Boston to SRQ Thursday , with an arriving flight at 3 p.m.

News that Pfizer and Moderna have developed promising COVID-19 vaccines have raised expectations that passengers could return in even greater numbers in 2021.

SRQ operates with no property tax revenue and is debt free, a rarity among airports.

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