Talking Richmond International Airport’s post-COVID recovery
In this exclusive interview which took place at Routes America 2023, Basil Dosunmu, Chief Financial Officer of Richmond International Airport, sat down with International Airport Review Editor, Holly Miles, to discuss the airport’s business operations.
Richmond International Airport's business operations, as told exclusively by Basil Dosunmu
Basil Dosunmu, Chief Financial Officer, Richmond International Airport, spoke with International Airport Review Editor, Holly Miles, at the Routes Americas conference in Chicago, Illinois.
Firstly, how is business? How’s the recovery of your airport going?
Business is good, with passenger traffic continuing to bounce back very well at Richmond International Airport (RIC). As of February 2023, passenger traffic increased 13.6% year-on-year, which is about 330,000 passengers. On the cargo side for the same time period, we saw an increase of 9.9% year-on-year. On the operations side, we saw about 9.4% increase year-on-year. If we look at the month of February alone, it represents about 97% of our traffic pre-pandemic levels. We’re hoping, by the end of this fiscal year of 2023, to be fully restored to pre-pandemic levels.
We have a combination of both business and leisure travellers, so people are willing and ready to get back into travel, which is very good!
Would you say business travel is back?
I think it’s still lagging behind. Now, what we have seen is a mixture of business and leisure travel together. Because now you can work from anywhere, many passengers are taking the opportunity to travel for work, but stay longer for leisure and personal reasons, as well. The rise of the digital nomad so to speak.
Have you had to do any financial restructuring as a result of the pandemic?
Yes, we have. During the pandemic, in 2021, we refunded about $14 million of our debt, which resulted in gross savings of about $2 million in 10 years, actual cash savings of $1.2 million. Doing that has allowed us to be more financially astute in how we’re managing our resources.
How are you diversifying your income streams and bolstering your non-aeronautical revenue?
Like most airports, over 75% of our operating revenues are directly correlated to passenger traffic. So, to diversify operating revenues, we are also focusing on non-passenger-centric operations such as cargo, land lease and land development. As an example, in 2022, we purchased about 168 acres of land close to the airport to increase our land holdings and support land development. We are marketing the east side of the airport for land development, which has great potential for non-aeronautical revenue.
What are you hoping to achieve from attending the Routes Americas conference?
Our goal in attending the Routes America conference is multi-faceted. One is, retaining our existing air service markets, increasing frequencies to our existing destinations, and then highlighting new potential destinations that we know will be successful when explored and added. An example of a new potential destination that we’re talking about in this conference is a Caribbean destination. The meetings at these conferences help airlines understand the true potential of air-service growth at our airport. For instance, we believe meetings at past conferences helped bring in service from Breeze Airways as well as Sun Country to Richmond International Airport.
In terms of your challenges this year, what are those, and what keeps you awake at night?
My boss, the CEO, Perry Miller, will say, “Sleep with one eye open,” when talking about what keeps you awake. But on a more serious note, as an airport, we continue to move forward with our mission of providing exceptional customer service through convenience, innovation and excellence. I can sleep well at night for a number of reasons. We have a supportive board of commissioners, we have a dynamic leadership team and an agile staff. We have collaborative airport partners. These bodies of people help support the operation of the airport, so no-one bears the burden. But in general, like most businesses, we’ve been seeing challenges with recruiting, with escalating cost, capital and operating cost, and then supply chain issues.
Given all these challenges, are there any opportunities that you foresee this year?
Absolutely. As a region, part of what we’re talking about at this conference is highlighting that we have a strong and diverse market that supports air service growth. This can be seen in the recovery levels that we just talked about, and the established new carriers that I mentioned. The Richmond passenger service population exceeds 2.6 million. We have a diverse economy. We have Fortune 500 and 1,000 companies with headquarters and corporate offices in the area, and we have 1.5 million higher-education students within 150 miles. So, we have opportunities to continue to grow our air service development in the region.
What is your business outlook in the medium – to long – term?
We have a number of projects, some that are recently completed or in process at the airport, to help us continue to grow in the medium-time and long-term growth. Some of those projects include upgrading our existing Federal Inspection Service (FIS) facility, where we process international travellers.
Then, we just recently expanded our concourse A by adding six new gates, to now a total of 28 gates. We are looking to consolidate our checkpoints. We’re exploring vital business and leisure travellers’ amenities that we can add to the airport. We’re also planning to modernise our jet bridges. So, we are doing a number of things that we know will continue to position us for growth capacity in the medium and long term.
What is on your personal to-do list for this year?
Personally, my family and I, we’re planning to travel to East Africa, Rwanda, in June. We’re planning to support a medical mission focused on providing complete heart surgeries to children with heart defects. We’re excited about the trip, and looking forward to the opportunity to serve!
About the author
Basil O. Dosunmu joined the Capital Region Airport Commission (CRAC) and the Richmond International Airport (RIC) as the Chief Financial Officer in July 2022. He leads the finance, accounting, and procurement subdivisions of the CRAC. Basil has nearly 30 years of accounting and auditing experience in various industries, to include state and local government, as well as career experience as a global consultant where he was focused on improving business processes and exploring and evaluating new business opportunities.
Basil is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Internal Auditor, and a Certified
Member of the American Association of Airport Executives. He is a member of the South Carolina Board of Accountancy and the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA). He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Rutgers University in Newark, NJ. He is a member of the Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) Finance Steering Group.
Basil is a graduate of Leadership Greenville. He currently serves on various boards, such as 4 Breath 4 Life, Solid Grounds Ministries, Clemson Family Advisory Board. A graduate of Diversity Leadership Initiatives, hosted by the Riley Institute at Furman University.