Furloughs are turning into permanent layoffs at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport restaurants Barrio, Stone Arch and Lake Wine as the recent spike in U.S. COVID-19 cases is again depressing demand for air travel.
St. Louis Park-based Aero Service Group, which operates the three MSP dining spots, will likely permanently lay off 92 service workers on Sept. 15 unless demand for air travel unexpectedly rises in the coming weeks. These workers are a part of the company’s 171 employees furloughed on March 15 as the novel coronavirus was taking root in the U.S., emptying airports across the nation.
At the lowest point for air travel since the start of the pandemic, Aero was operating just Stone Arch in Terminal 1 with only six employees.
Since then, it has reopened Barrio in Terminal 2 and recalled 79 workers, bringing its current employee base back to 48% of its pre-pandemic employment numbers, said Bob Helman, the company’s chief operating officer.
The company on Tuesday filed the 60-day layoff notice with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Executives hope to save a few more jobs between now and the end of the 60 days.
As more passengers started flying, passing through the airport in early summer, Aero Service executives were optimistic that they might be able to avoid laying off workers.
The company continued paying health benefits for its full-time workers, which accounts for about 60% of its MSP employees, while they have been furloughed.
“Things were looking good up until these spikes we are seeing in the Southern U.S.,” said Michelle Ranum, Aero’s chief marketing officer. “This [rise in cases] has put everyone back a few steps.”
Lake Wine, located in Terminal 1, will likely remain closed throughout the remainder of 2020. The company hopes all three venues will be back to full operations in 2021, though “nobody really knows what’s going to happen,” said Ranum.
Passenger traffic at MSP remains about 75% below year-ago levels. About 40 of the airport’s 130 concessions are currently open. At the lowest point in air travel demand this past spring, just 19 concessions were operating across both MSP terminals.