Greater Moncton airport uses cash reserves to keep going during pandemic
Airport put off several capital projects this year, after passenger traffic dropped severely
After working to cut its debt almost in half the past few years, the Greater Moncton Romeo LeBlanc International Airport lost 98 per cent of its passenger traffic in April and May this year, CEO Bernard LeBlanc said Tuesday.
LeBlanc was speaking at a public community consultative and noise management meeting about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the airport.
LeBlanc said between 2014 and 2019, the airport authority reduced its debt level from over $40 million to about $23 million.
Coming into the pandemic, the airport had $8 .5 million in the bank, most of it earmarked for capital projects.
But $11.5 million in capital work had to be cut back, he said.
"So what we've been able to do is to use our cash reserves to essentially pay the bills to keep the airport running," LeBlanc said.
He said the idea is to make the cash last as long as possible.
"We expect to have enough cash to last us until the end of the first quarter of next year based on the forecast we see and then we get into the position where we actually have to borrow to keep the operations going," LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc said international cargo traffic is helping, and the airport is getting about 20 per cent of its revenue from the federal wage subsidy program at $100,000 a month.
But some layoffs are expected in August.
LeBlanc said the Greater Moncton International Airport Authority has been working with the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees to minimize the impact.
"These could involve early retirements, job sharing, combining positions/roles, not filling vacant positions, etc. as possible alternatives to permanent employee layoffs. At this point, we can unfortunately not share the full impacts as these discussions are ongoing, but we should be in a position to do so come mid to late August."
Vincent Martin, the director of operations at the airport, said several projects slated for this year are being deferred, including an expansion of the "apron," an area where aircraft are parked, loaded or boarded.
A planned cargo road and an expanded de-icing pad have also been put off.
Martin said a program to capture and release glycol, the substance used to de-ice aircraft, will go ahead.
The airport provides a de-icing pad for aircraft. But some of the material runs off the airfield into storm ditches and Cooks Brook, which runs through the field.
Officials have been working on a plan to deal with the runoff properly, without overwhelming the new wastewater system.
TransAqua, Greater Moncton's wastewater commission, is building a new $90-million biosolids water-treatment facility, expected to be completed this year.
"We're going to have our sets of tanks that will be able to capture the fluid," Martin said. "Then we'll be able to send it at a controlled rate through the municipal system to TransAqua so that they'll be able to process [it]."
Construction has begun and will be completed by October.
LeBlanc said there are many tough decisions to be made as budget preparations for next year are underway.
LeBlanc predicted the "airport world" will recover from the pandemic but said it's too soon to say when that will happen.