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$80M renovations at Rochester airport finished in time for COVID to tank industry



ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Frederick Douglass-Greater Rochester International Airport got an $80 million facelift just in time for COVID-19 to tank the airline industry.

And while the airport is still current on all its bills, News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke had a candid conversation with Airport Director Andy Moore about changes he’s had to make, that make many of those upgrades moot at this point.

2019 was the best year for the Rochester airport in a decade, but just as all these state-of-the-art upgrades were being finished up, COVID-19 hit and now it’s a ghost town. The worst day on record came in April when just 185 people came and went.

“We’re still down about 75% in passengers and about 63% in flights but those numbers are a lot better than what they were back in March, April and May so we’re moving in the right direction,”  Moore said.

But it’s a very slow journey.

Lewke: “Are you looking at the budget and looking for ways to spend less or you at all worried that you can’t sustain the airport on these numbers?”

Moore: “I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t always looking at the financial side of where we are.”

So at the moment, the brand-new upper deck that was supposed to be for drop-offs is closed.

“I can handle everybody in the lower level, both arriving passengers and departing passengers with not a lot of conflict and so far it’s worked very well,” Moore said.

That’s saved on maintenance costs because the area doesn’t have to be cleaned and sanitized as often.  It’s also cut down on security costs—because it doesn’t need to be patrolled. The airport director has also made a number of changes inside.

“When gates and hold rooms are not being used, electricity levels reduce down and when they are being used they turn back on,” Moore said.

And what about these vendors, many of them local companies that were lured to the airport during its major facelift with the promise of more passengers.

“About half of our vendors are open right now and they seem to be doing OK, I can’t say they’re doing great under current conditions but they’re managing,” Moore said.

Lewke: “Have you had to give anyone a deal to help keep them open?”

Moore: “Yeah, we’ve given some waivers to some of the concessions that are open to just to help them out, I think that’s the fair thing to do and the right thing to do under these conditions.”

Conditions that the airport director hopes, don’t get worse before they get better.