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SLO County's new director of airports focusing on safety during pandemic

Posted at 6:00 PM, Oct 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-20 23:38:49-04

Safety during the pandemic is a top priority for San Luis Obispo County’s new director of airports.

Having previously served as the county's airport deputy director since January 2019, managing the airport's finance, administration and business development functions, Courtney Johnson now oversees both the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport and Oceano Airport.

“The focus is safety. At the end of the day, we want to make sure our customers feel safe,” Johnson told KSBY News on Tuesday, 10 days after officially taking over.

Johnson says along with passenger safety, implementing new health and safety measures at the airports has also been a top priority.

Those measures include things like increased cleaning schedules throughout the airport to providing free PPE to all customers and airport staff, Johnson said.

She is also working on adding accreditations and making sure airport employees go through extra training.

“We’re doing what we can, but we are also analyzing ways to make it better and getting ratings and accreditations to help make sure that we are held to the highest standard for our customers,” Johnson sad.

Since taking over as director, she says the biggest hurdle has been funding, with the budget being reduced by 30 percent.

“And then on top of that the grants that we’re receiving are going toward different things than they would have previously, which would be the safety of our customers,” Johnson said.

She adds that the San Luis Obispo Airport is doing fairly well despite the pandemic.

While the rest of California has about a 45 percent occupancy rate on flights, she says the San Luis Obispo Airport sits at 65 percent.

“We’ve rebounded well. We just want to make sure we’re doing everything we need to to keep customers coming and happy,” Johnson said, adding that the San Luis Obispo Airport is hoping to get San Diego flights back at some point and also add flights to Portland starting next year.

The county says she is managing a $9.1 million budget and a team of 20 full-time employees.

Johnson took over for Kevin Bumen, who left to become the first chief commercial officer for the San Francisco International Airport.