British Columbia

More than 13,000 Vancouver airport workers to be laid off due to COVID-19

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to grind travel to a halt, more than half the workers at YVR are set to lose their jobs.

CEO predicts a yearly decline in passengers of 50 per cent

Strict travel restrictions have rocked the airline industry, turning YVR's once bustling terminal into a ghost town. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to grind travel to a halt, more than half the workers at YVR are set to lose their jobs.

Craig Richmond, president and CEO of the Vancouver Airport Authority, made the announcement in a video to employees Friday.

"I don't take these numbers lightly because I know the value that each person brings to YVR," said Richmond.

"To every airport worker, please know we're doing everything in our power to support your eventual return."

Richmond says employees across different industries such as retail, food service, and aircraft management are being affected.

The Vancouver International airport in Richmond directly generates more than 26,000 jobs on Sea Island and more than 100,000 across the province.

Walking through the airport, Richmond says it's easy to see the economic impacts of the growing pandemic. Once bustling terminal spaces are now empty, parking stalls are open and the local businesses are shuttered.

It's bad," said Richmond, yet he's optimistic the airport can recover and jobs can be reinstated. "We'll come back from this."

50 per cent decline in passenger traffic

With countries enforcing strict travel bans to curb the spread of the virus, Richmond predicts a difficult year for the airport.

In addition to early estimates of a 50 per cent decline in passenger traffic, Richmond says he believes travel will drop to less than a third of its regular volume domestically, while travel from our neighbours to the south will become completely non-existent in the coming weeks.

A traveler walks past signage at Vancouver International Airport. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government is significantly restricting the entry of non-residents into Canada to combat the spread of the coronavirus. (Jennifer Gauthier/Bloomberg)

Yet, despite the cutbacks and the scaling back of airport operations, he says the airport will remain open as it serves as a critical hub for the transport of essential goods like food and medicine, as well as the movement of key personnel.

"To be clear, even if passenger flights stopped altogether, we would remain open," said the airport president, who was set to retire in June but has agreed to stay on if the Airport Authority is unable to find his replacement during the crisis.

Pier D construction postponed, future uncertain

Construction was halted last week on the airport's long-awaited expansion, Pier D. 

First conceived five years ago,  the expanded international terminal will provide the airport with eight new gates — four with bridge access and four remote bus gates.

Richmond says the decision to postpone construction was made to keep workers safe and to ensure proper physical distancing.

The expansion was responsible for 4,000 jobs in all, 2,000 at the airport and another 2,000 off site.

Given the uncertainty in the world right now, Richmond says it's unclear when the project will resume.


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