British Columbia

Airports in B.C.'s Interior see 'devastating' decrease in passenger traffic in April

Passenger traffic is significantly down at airports throughout B.C.’s Interior due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions around the globe.

Traffic down more than 96 per cent in Kamloops, Kelowna and Prince George

The Kelowna International Airport saw about 155,000 passengers in April 2019. Last month, there were 5,706 passengers, a drop of about 96 per cent. (YLW)

Passenger traffic is significantly down at airports throughout B.C.'s Interior due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions around the globe — Kamloops, Kelowna and Prince George's airports all saw drops of at least 96 per cent in April compared to 2019. 

Last year, two million passengers passed through the Kelowna International Airport, making it one of the busiest airports in the country. Approximately 155,000 of those passengers travelled in April 2019. 

In April 2020, 5,706 passengers were recorded, equalling a drop of about 96 per cent.

"It's been devastating," airport director Sam Sammadar told Daybreak South host Chris Walker.

"I've been at the airport 28 years and seeing our traffic grow steadily. We're one of the top-performing airports in the country."

Kelowna's airport is down to eight flights per day, and Sammadar said they've let go 80 per cent of staff.

Sammadar said the airport is projecting 2020 numbers to be similar to those of 1997. He doesn't expect traffic levels to be restored to 2019 levels until the winter of 2023.

Traffic at the Prince George Airport in northern B.C. is also down by 96 per cent, but unlike Kelowna, no staff have been laid off, according to CEO Gordon Duke.

"Pretty tough to see, but not totally unexpected given what we saw happening across the industry not only in Canada, but globally," Duke said. 

He anticipates recovery to begin, in a small way, in June.

The decrease is highest in Kamloops. In April 2019 the airport saw 28,299 passengers and in the same period this year, a mere 493, a decrease of 98.3 per cent. Year to date, the airport is down 29 per cent.

Airport director Ed Ratuski expects minimal improvement in numbers for May, and said recovery is largely dependent on travel restrictions being loosened.

With files from Daybreak South and Daybreak North

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