Virus Outbreak Colorado

A lone traveller heads directly to the north security checkpoint in Denver International Airport as travellers deal with the spread of coronavirus Friday, March 20, 2020, in Denver. According to the World Health Organization, most people recover in about two to six weeks depending on the severity of the COVID-19 illness. 

In spite of some dire news regarding the novel coronavirus outbreak spurring uncertainty around air travel, Fitch Ratings on Tuesday reaffirmed Denver International Airport’s financial position.

According to the most recent data released by the airport, 90% fewer people moved through TSA last week compared with the same time a year earlier, a metric on par with many other airports across the country amid the fallout of COVID-19.

Despite the decline, DIA’s “unrestricted cash reserves alone are sufficient to meet debt service due through the end of the current calendar year,” the Fitch assessment reported.

DIA spokesperson Stacey Stegman said that the airport has “more than 500 days of cash on hand,” and that airport officials are “having discussions as to what might come so we can ensure we make the best decisions for the future health of this airport and its employees and passengers.”

The Fitch Ratings report expects air travel to plummet to steeper levels than what was seen during prior global events, such as SARS and the 9/11 attacks.

Its new report said that revenue and cost profiles for airports servicing the country’s largest markets, including DIA, are “likely to worsen in the coming weeks and months as economic activity suffers and government restrictions are maintained or expanded.”  

The credit rating giant also adjusted its rating outlook from “stable” to “negative” to reflect the “current stressed environment in aviation, affecting origination-destination as well as connecting travel.”

“This is a challenging time for (the) aviation industry,” Stegman said. The airport “will see a significant decline in revenue this year and so we are reevaluating our capital, operating and maintenance expenses, planning for major budget reductions and reprioritizing projects and programs so that we can maintain a strong financial position and meet our debt obligations while positioning us for the growth that will inevitably come when this passes.”

Fitch predicts for DIA and several other large airports — including Chicago Midway International and Dallas Love Field — that “severe declines in emplaned passenger traffic will affect operating revenues … with the greatest impacts to occur in the second quarter of 2020 and potentially extend into future periods due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

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