NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - The holiday season tends to see increased demand in air travel, but this holiday season is already proving to be a challenge for the Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport.
The airport is expecting an influx of military servicemembers flying out of the airport with fewer seats than in prior years.
"We need more seats to accommodate our soldiers,” Jenifer Spratley, the marketing director for the airport, said, pleading to the airlines. "We're just underserved, we're an underserved airport and our soldiers are being underserved during this holiday season."
Spratley said roughly 400 servicemembers travel out of Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport – also known as PHF by its International Air Transport Association code -- during the holiday season. The airlines have typically provided them 700 seats but this year the airport is looking at roughly 300 seats.
"And that is a huge chunk of our travel,” Spratley said.
That figure is a mix of both servicemembers and other passengers, though Spratley added servicemembers leave on days known as "block leave.”
"We did reach out to American Airlines and Delta to share that information with them to stress how important it is for our soldiers to get home,” Spratley said.
Both airlines have a presence at the airport, but American Airlines is the only airline providing scheduled service. Delta suspended their service due to the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year.
News 3 reached out to both airlines to see if they would provide any additional service to accommodate outgoing servicemembers.
American Airlines, in a statement, said, "At this time we don’t have plans for additional service, but we’re always evaluating our network based on supply and demand."
"At this time we don’t have plans for additional service, but we’re always evaluating our network based on supply and demand. Next month we’ll have up to six daily flights to and from PHF from our hubs in Philadelphia (PHL) and Charlotte (CLT), which provides many options and optimal connections across our vast network."
American Airlines Corporate Communications
It went on to say they will have six total flights in December to Charlotte and Philadelphia.
In another statement from Delta, the airline said, "We are continuously monitoring demand trends and rebuilding our network as demand resumes.”
“We have suspended service to Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport due to low demand impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are continuously monitoring demand trends and rebuilding our network as demand resumes.”
Delta Airlines Corporate Communications
“They have to go home and they'll find a way to go home, and we don't want them to be on the street driving,” Spratley said. “We'd like to have more seats flying out of PHF so that we can accommodate their needs, so we're not very happy about that."
News 3 also asked Norfolk International Airport if they foresee the same issues. It said it does not at this time.