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            Projects completed, airport waits for passengers to return

            Photo of Eric Anderson
            Eric Anderson

            COLONIE — Albany International Airport's new parking garage was completed on time last week, but don't expect a ribbon-cutting anytime soon.

            The pandemic has emptied airports worldwide, as cautious travelers stay 体彩app官方网站 and airlines cancel flights.

            At Albany airport on Wednesday afternoon, only Dunkin' Donuts was open, said airport spokesman Doug Myers. All other shops and dining spots have closed.

            About 200 people pass through the security checkpoints daily, down from as many as 4,000 on a typical weekday. That figure includes airport staff, so the actual number of departing passengers and crew is likely much lower.

            About 22 of the airport's 50-plus daily departures are canceled regularly, and it's not unusual to board a plane with just a handful of other passengers.

            Airport CEO Phil Calderone welcomes the fact that so few people are flying. "It means people are listening to their leaders, like the governor," he said, referring to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has called on New Yorkers to stay 体彩app官方网站 and practice social distancing to limit the spread of the coronavirus. "There will be a time when we can all look at ... the tremendous improvements" at the airport, Calderone said.

            Cargo flights to the airport continue, bringing needed supplies to fight the pandemic, he said. On Thursday morning a jet belonging to Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon G. Adelson was due to land at Albany after a flight from Guangzhou, China体彩app官方网站, to unload a cargo of one million face masks. The masks were donated by the Las Vegas Sands.

            Meanwhile, any vacant tarmac is being filled with jets taken temporarily out of service. United Express carrier CommutAir has parked most of its fleet at Albany, where it has its maintenance base. In all, about 25 aircraft are being stored there, Myers said, although some may belong to other carriers.

            When the airport food concessions closed, the inventory was donated to the Capital City Rescue Mission in Albany, Myers said. The items ranged from chicken, bacon and buns to hummus and yogurt.

            AvPorts, which manages operations at the airport for the Albany County Airport Authority, has about 160 employees working. They provide services ranging from building and grounds maintenance to operating the one parking lot that remains open, as well as shuttle buses to its economy lot, which is now closed to new traffic.

            The new garage is also closed, as is the existing garage. Calderone said he is seeking to save money on utilities and other discretionary spending. "I want to hold off on furloughing any employees for now," he said.

            The Federal Aviation Administration, meanwhile, has changed the way it staffs the airport control tower.

            "Each air traffic control facility is establishing separate teams of controllers that will stay together throughout the duty week," the FAA said in a statement provided to the Times Unon. "Each crew will contain the same employees, limiting the possibility of cross-exposure to COVID-19 that would come through normal shift rotations. If a person on one team gets sick, the only people who would be exposed are the other people on that team."

            Calderone said the airport authority had also worked to establish a backup control tower in case the main tower requires sanitizing.

            And the Transportation Security Administration, which has seen air traffic plummet nationwide, has alternated open and closed lanes at the Albany checkpoint to further separate passengers going through screening, said spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein. With the sharp decline in passengers, officers are assigned fewer hours at the checkpoint.

            "Fewer work hours reduces the amount of time our officers are exposed to passengers who might be carrying the virus," Farbstein said. "The security of the traveling public and the health of our employees will continue to be our top priorities."

            She added that TSA officers continue to be paid and none have been furloughed.

            Calderone, meanwhile, thanked the employees who remain on the job, "all those other people who don't get the shout-out they deserve. They take risks so we can run" the facility.