The head of Hyannis-based Cape Air believes it could be several years before demand for his airline and others returns to pre-pandemic levels.
Cape Air founder and CEO Dan Wolf predicts a short-term recovery of 80% of pre-pandemic passenger levels as soon as a vaccine or treatment for the coronavirus is found. He believes that will happen by the second or third quarter of 2021.
"The other 20% for a full recovery," he said, "is going to be a longer haul and I think that's going to be a couple of years before we get back to 2019 numbers."
Approaching the end of August, Wolf said Cape Air's passenger loads are down 60% or more in the four North American regions the airline serves: New England, Montana, the Midwest and the Caribbean.
Roughly 60 Cape Air employees took voluntary furloughs. The airline was not allowed to make mandatory furloughs or layoffs as part of the agreement to receive federal economic aid.
A Cape Air spokesperson said the airline received about $14.7 million in the Payroll Support Program that was part of the CARES Act passed in the spring. The airline also received an $8.1 million loan through the Small Business Administration.
"When you're operating nearly empty airplanes, you're not bringing in a lot of revenue," Wolf said. "What we're doing is we're keeping the operating intact to get to the other side of this, as is most of the industry."
Wolf is still hoping more federal assistance will be approved.
"For us to continue to serve the communities we are with passenger demand the way it is, without some kind of additional assistance, we're going to have to restructure the company," he said. "That would be a last resort."
This segment aired on August 31, 2020.