THE NOW defunct Virgin Australia owes more than $100,000 to Tamworth Regional Airport.
The financial situation at the airport is so dire that staff now flick off the air-conditioner and lights to save on the electricity bill when passengers aren't there.
Airport manager Michael Dubois said Virgin, which has gone into voluntary administration, owes upwards of $100,000 in landing fees and charges which the airport is unlikely to claw back.
"Airports are unsecured creditors so we have to go in and fight for whatever we can get," he said.
"I've been in this industry for more than 40 years, I've seen so many of these cases come and go and you don't get anything out of it.
"I think we could safely say our chances of getting the money back are not looking good at the present time."
The airport income has been slashed from almost $4 million each year to now just $50,000 each month.
That's a total of $600,000 by the end of the financial year if nothing changes.
Tamworth Regional Council deferred rent payments from some businesses at the airport until the economy recovers from the pandemic.
Expenses at the airport run at about $2.9 million and it has to remain operational 24/7 because it services aeromedical flights, private charters and is a diversionary base for military aircraft.
There's hardly any income now to offset those costs.
The $340,000 a month the airport business would normally make in fees from passenger aircraft and car-parking revenue is down to about $16,000.
At the moment the airport is relying on reserves put aside for major capital works that are quickly dwindling away, Mr Dubois said.
"We are struggling out here and there's no two ways about it, I think all airports are," he said.
"It's highly unlikely we will come back to anywhere near our pre-COVID numbers for two years.
"We expected 200,000 passengers in the last financial year and we ended up with 130,000 with a huge drop off in March."
An Australian Airports Association survey revealed Tamworth Regional Airport is one of 24 regional airports owed a share of $10 million in unpaid fees after the coronavirus pandemic forced border closures and devastated the industry.
Mr Dubois said he has lobbied the state and federal government to underwrite airport business in the same way both have for airlines.
"We have spoken to them [Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson and Member for New England Barnaby Joyce], we are not the only business in the country suffering but airports are not one you want to be in at the present time," he said.