Allegiant Air announced this week the airline is adding another nonstop route from McAllen International Airport, an optimistic move at a time when the number of airline passengers is still significantly down amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

City and airport officials announced Allegiant would launch nonstop flights to Nashville from the McAllen airport for the summer — from May 27 through August 15 on a Sunday through Thursday schedule.

This will be Allegiant’s fourth route to and from McAllen since the since 2006 when the airline launched service from McAllen to Las Vegas, later adding service to Orlando and Los Angeles.

“This pandemic time has been extremely difficult for our industry, as for a lot of other industries in our community,” acknowledged Elizabeth Suarez, director of aviation for the city during a news conference held for the announcement.

Since March 2020, when the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Texas, enplanements and deplanements — the number of people boarding and disembarking from flights at the airport — have been down compared to the same month in 2019, according to an activity report compiled by the airport.

In December, the McAllen airport reported a total 194,872 enplanements for the year which was a 55% decrease from 2019 while deplanements for 2020 were reported at 193,937, down 52% compared to 2019.

For December alone, enplanements were down 53% which was actually an improvement from earlier months.

In April, enplanements were down 91% compared to April 2019. In May they were down 84%, down 82% in June, and down 77% in July compared to the same months in 2019.

Deplanements for those months saw similar decreases.

“We have worked extremely closely with our airline and business partners to endure these most difficult times,” said City Manager Roy Rodriguez. “For us, today’s announcement is a positive glimpse to the beginning of an economic recovery, but more importantly, today we celebrate lasting partnerships that, despite facing challenges, endure and grow.”

McAllen Mayor Darling echoed the sentiment, expressing confidence in their staff to weather the challenges.

“It’s been a challenge with COVID … but I think our airport staff and our partners have met that challenge and will continue to do that,” Darling said during the news conference, “and when all this COVID is over, we’ll go back and be in a great, great place to leave home and also to come home.”