North Texas airports to receive millions in pandemic relief from FAA grant

A grant will pour hundreds of millions of dollars into DFW Airport and Dallas Love Field. 

Airports around the country will share $8 billion in federal grants to help them recover from the pandemic, which caused a steep drop in air travel and a loss of revenue that airports expect from airlines and passengers.

Most of the money will go to big airports with commercial airline service. They will share $6.5 billion based on the number of passenger boardings, plus another $800 million to offer rent relief to companies that operate concessions such as food and retail outlets in terminals.

Airports must keep at least 90% of the workers they had before the pandemic to receive one of the grants, which will be handled by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Congress approved the money as part of a pandemic-relief measure that President Joe Biden signed in March. The Biden administration said the grants would protect airport jobs and construction projects as travel recovers.

The FAA said several hundred airports will get grant money, including $175.7 million for Seattle-Tacoma International, $115 million for Philadelphia International, $74.3 million for Daniel K. Inouye International in Honolulu, $56.2 million for St. Louis Lambert International, and $50.6 million for Raleigh-Durham International in North Carolina.

Dallas Love Field Spokesperson Chris Perry says the city-owned airport is getting some $58 million from the FAA. 

DFW Airport will get $251 million. Part of the funds can support concessionaires that operate at the airport.

"Simply, there's not enough staff that can keep the eatery or shop open for as long as it needs to be," Perry said.

Perry says five of Love Field's food and beverage sites remain closed. Five retail locations are also temporarily shuttered. Still, he says so far none of the tenants have indicated they'll be closed for good.

Bruegger's Bagels is operating on a limited schedule. Manager Dontrinette Nelson says they've only got three employees.

"Running back and forth. Running back and forth. It’s a lot. You see I'm sweating right now," she said. "Nobody is even applying right now."

Perry says the airport is about to host its fourth hiring event. Some businesses are offering higher wages and bonuses in hopes of enticing applicants.

"We're recruiting right now. We're starting at $12 an hour here in our store," Nelson said. "People just don't want to work right now. They're making more money sitting at home."

Perry says at the start of the pandemic, Love Field waived the minimum annual guarantee to help tenants stay afloat. 

DFW will set aside $30 million to support concessionaires that operate at that airport.

There are nearly 500 commercial airports in the U.S., according to an industry group, Airports Council International-North America, and the group projects that they will lose more than $40 billion from the pandemic by next March.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.