Manitoba

Winnipeg Airports Authority posts $34M loss, adds $87M in long-term debt

The Winnipeg Airports Authority lost less money during the second year of the pandemic, but was forced to add more long-term debt to make it through another turbulent financial year.

Passenger traffic expected to improve as pandemic turbulence eases

Winnipeg Airports Authority president and CEO Nick Hayes, here presenting at the annual public meeting on Thursday at Richardson International Airport, says he expects passenger volumes to continue to improve this year. (Travis Golby/CBC)

The Winnipeg Airports Authority lost less money during the second year of the pandemic, but was forced to add more long-term debt to make it through another turbulent financial year.

The WAA, which operates Richardson International Airport, posted a net loss of $34.2 million for 2021, its annual financial report says.

That's an improvement from a $40.3-million loss in 2020.

WAA president and CEO Nick Hays said it will take several more years before the airport is back in the black, but passenger volumes at Richardson are increasing to the point where they could be 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022.

In 2021, passenger traffic at Richardson was only 27 per cent of what it was before the pandemic. The airport had 1.2 million passengers last year, down from 4.5 million in 2019, WAA communications manager Michel Rosset said.

"What we're hearing is that people want to get out there, see friends and family," Hays said after the WAA's annual general meeting at Richardson International Airport's departures area. 

"We've been seeing increasing numbers coming through the airport. We're certainly a long way away from that pre-pandemic level, but we're certainly moving in the right direction."

Hays said the airport is in discussions to add more direct flights to and from Richardson, but cannot say when routes that were cancelled during the pandemic — including connections to Denver and Chicago — will be restored.

Cargo traffic, which never waned during the pandemic, is also expected to continue to improve, he said. After pandemic delays, the WAA is expected to begin construction on a new cargo facility later this year.

On the downside, the airport authority's long-term debt rose in 2021 to $663 million, up from $576 million at the end of 2020.

"We have had to take on additional borrowing simply in order to make sure that we could continue to operate the airport as critical infrastructure," Hays said. 

"We're going to take several years, I think, to really work through that additional debt that we've had to accrue during the pandemic years."

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