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Ford airport loses 55 jobs due to economic impact of coronavirus on travel

Swissport announced the layoffs of passenger service agents and baggage handlers due to the impact COVID-19 has had on air travel.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Plunging air travel is costing 55 baggage handlers and passenger agents their jobs at Gerald R. Ford International Airport. 

Swissport, which provides ground and air cargo services, notified state labor officials this week of the layoffs. Swissport provides airport services across the globe.

“COVID-19 has immensely impacted air travel in the past few weeks,’’ local Swissport General Manager Gene Cross wrote the state. “Many flights have been cancelled and multiple international carriers have suspended operations.’’

Because of the cancellation of flights, Swissport “is unable to sustain the workforce it currently has at GRR without revenue from the airlines,’’ Cross wrote. 

Layoffs began on April 25 and are expected to continue through the end of June. 

“Because this impact to the business was unforeseeable, Swissport was unable to provide the required 60-day notice under the federal WARN Act,’’ Cross wrote. “These layoffs are expected to be permanent.’’

The Grand Rapids airport, much like other airports across the country, have been struggling with losses directly related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority has also reduced staff through separations, retirements and resignations.  By the end of June, it is expected that 87 people will work for the airport authority.

RELATED: 'Ghost town' atmosphere greets airport patrons; travel plummets 90 percent

RELATED: Ford Airport struggles with passenger counts

RELATED: Ford airport sees 90% drop in business, recovery could take three years

The Ford airport normally handles about 14,000 passengers a day, but travel restrictions and coronavirus concerns had traffic in April down by 90 percent, airport CEO Tory Richardson said in a recent interview. May traffic was off 86 percent.

It certainly runs counter to record growth seen at GRR in recent years.

More than 3.5 million passengers flew in and out of the Grand Rapids airport in 2019. 

Passenger volume last year marked the seventh consecutive year of record-setting growth. The airport has seven airlines serving nearly three dozen major market destinations daily.

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