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Feature and interview on challenges facing Nashville International Airport and its President, Doug Kreulen, due to Covid19.  Here are some highlights:

On a normal day last year, BNA had a little more than 50,000 people moving through the airport. Today, BNA has around 2,000 people, according to Kreulen.

Financially, Kreulen said BNA is losing anywhere from $9 million to $10 million a month. By the end of June, the end of BNA’s fiscal year, Kreulen estimates BNA will be down $36 million to $40 million. Prior to Covid-19, BNA expected $160 million in revenue for fiscal year 2020.

“It doesn’t help you sleep too well,” Kreulen said.

On the other hand, BNA borrowed all the money for the next phase of BNA Vision in December, selling$920 million in bonds. That means BNA Vision is proceeding as planned. With minimal passengers roaming the hallways, there are 3,000 construction workers working throughout the airport’s campus on BNA Vision projects and preventive maintenance.

What are some of the things you’re working on during this time? We’re doing a lot of budget analysis and cutting of budgets. We’re assuming different scenarios over the next couple of years. How do we get to where everybody feels healthy and the flights come back up? That’s taking a lot of time. The second part is, we’re really trying to figure out what we can do to accelerate different construction programs that we have going on while nobody is here. With it being so quiet, there’s a lot of work we can get done.

What are you doing to save the business? Probably the biggest thing we’re doing right now is taking care of the employees and taking care of the budget. I give our employees weekly updates. They’re all happy and well. We want them to be able to work out here without fear. We’re spending extra time cleaning. We’re keeping them informed about what’s going on. We’re strong enough to be able to take care of our employees and take care of business. Now, we’re not hiring new employees right now. We’ve developed plans over the next two years to cut about $26 million from the [2021 and 2022] budgets to make sure we can operate in a positive environment.


What are some of the things you’ve cut back on? There’s two types of budgets we have to work on: capital improvement budgets and the operating budgets. For capital improvement budgets, we have delayed different construction projects that we had worked on through the airlines, things like fixing taxiways or improving baggage handling systems. When I cut programs like that from the budget, the baggage claim system will continue to operate, but we won’t put in faster processors until the passengers come back. What that does is keep our costs really low so the airlines still want to come to Nashville. Right now, we’re one of the lowest-cost airports in the United States, so they can get in here pretty cheap. On our side of the house, we’ll do things like reducing construction on different types of facilities that would help the employees out. Not doing pay raises means we don’t have to terminate people. So we’re making tough decisions like that.

How is the airport positioning itself for a restart of the economy? We’re ready to go. It’s the cleanest airport you’ve ever seen in your life. … All of the preventive maintenance that we would’ve done over a several month period, we’ve been doing over the last few weeks to make sure everything is up and running. We still exercise all the jet bridges. The airlines are still flying. There’s just not a lot of passengers on them right now. When we’ve talked about the recovery with different economists, we have three different scenarios: we have a 12-month, 24-month and 36-month recovery. We’re sort of shooting the gap with the 24-month recovery. If we recover faster than that, we’re ready to go. If it’s slower than that, that’s something we’ll have to deal with. We’re trying to build what I call a “survival budget” to make sure we keep our costs to a minimum, and try to encourage the airlines to bring all those flights right back to Nashville because we’ve kept our costs under control.

Has BNA Vision been impacted by all this?  We have five different projects going on right now. BNA Vision is still moving ahead. We’re still planning to hit all five major goals that we had for this year — things like opening up the new garage, opening up both ticketing wings, opening up the admin building. We’re running almost nonstop construction during the daylight hours. 

What’s your best-case scenario? The people who are looking at a six-month scenario are probably overly optimistic. A 12-month is hopeful. I’m planning on 24 months to recover, but that’s because I’m looking at it from the CEO perspective of, “How do I budget the dollars that we have?” If it comes back sooner than that, that’s awesome. That means the airport is making more money and we don’t need any help. The good news for the city is we had all that damage at John C. Tune and we’ve had a large amount of damage to the revenue accounts at the airport, but we don’t receive any local tax dollars so we’re not asking for any help from the city of Nashville. That’s our responsibility to take care of business out here. That’s why I keep saying that my job is to make sure this airport is ready to go so that as Nashville is ready to have more concerts and open things up again, we’re here to have the passengers come through.

More behind the NBJ paywall here:


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18 hours ago, LA_TN said:

April 2020 total passengers:


Yes, that is for the whole month. Basically, the volume of a busy day last year

Down 95.8% from last year

Definitely an interesting statistic.  Does that mean that only 4.2% of normal air traffic into Nashville is "Essential"?  The remaining 95.8% appears to be discretionary.

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I'll chime in that almost all business travel has stopped with no plans for a restart, just what I hear from my company and clients.

I heard a story where an expert said that, actually, travelling in the plane was pretty safe with air changes. It's the security lines, and busy concourses and sitting areas that are far worse. Of course you can't get to the plane without going thru all the rest.

Edited by Nash_12South
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12 hours ago, Sean blackdog said:


There's going to be a dog park at the airport?  Is that a thing?  I mean, are there other airports with dog parks?  I guess it's for service dogs?  I've never seen that before at an airport, and I think it's pretty neat.

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3 minutes ago, jmtunafish said:

There's going to be a dog park at the airport?  Is that a thing?  I mean, are there other airports with dog parks?  I guess it's for service dogs?  I've never seen that before at an airport, and I think it's pretty neat.

I’ve noticed several airports that have signs posted for “pet relief areas,” often marking a door within the secured portion of the terminal. (Probably leading to a tiny fenced grassy area.) In my travels I haven’t noticed anything of this scope.

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23 minutes ago, jmtunafish said:

There's going to be a dog park at the airport?  Is that a thing?  I mean, are there other airports with dog parks?  I guess it's for service dogs?  I've never seen that before at an airport, and I think it's pretty neat.

At least there is not a snake pit for those people saying they have a support snake. You would really have problems when peoples support snakes start eating other people's suppot frogs.

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