Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's airport cuts jobs after another month of losses caused by pandemic

St. John's International Airport will be reducing its workforce by 15 per cent as a result of revenue losses over the course of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

June saw a decrease in passengers by just over 92% compared with last year

Peter Avery, chief administrative officer of the St. John's International Airport Authority, says 17 jobs have been cut at the airport as a result of lost revenue. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

St. John's International Airport will be reducing its workforce by 15 per cent due to lost revenue under the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The St. John's International Airport Authority, the organization responsible for the airport's operations, made the announcement this week. In total, 17 jobs have been cut: two management and 15 unionized positions. Some were cut effective Monday, while others will require union consultation, a spokesperson for the airport authority told CBC News in an emailed statement. The cuts include three vacant positions that won't be refilled.

"Ninety per cent of our operating costs are non-discretionary and we've made every effort that we can to increase efficiencies and cut costs, and right now without any support from any level of government coming, it's just we've held out as long as we can basically," said chief administrative officer Peter Avery on Friday.

"[It's] some unfortunate news, obviously, when we have to do a workforce reduction. It's the first time in our history we have actually done one." 

In May, Avery told CBC News passenger numbers in St. John's were down more than 95 per cent for the month of April compared with the same time period in 2019.

Just 5,424 passengers travelled through the airport that month. In April 2019 passenger numbers reached 117,228.

Avery also said in May the forecast revenue of $46 million this year was expected to drop by two-thirds as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

On Friday the airport authority told CBC News that June saw a decrease in passengers by just over 92 per cent compared with last year.

Small increase from Atlantic bubble

Friday marked two weeks since the opening of the Atlantic bubble, allowing residents from all four Atlantic provinces to move within the region without a 14-day self-isolation period.

St. John's International Airport has seen a small increase in traffic since the opening.

"For the first half of July we have on average 320 passengers per day each way … in June it was about 170," a spokesperson said. 

"By comparison in July 2019 we had approximately 2,730 passengers per day each way."

Passenger traffic is picking up at St. John's International Airport after the opening of the Atlantic bubble. However, Avery says it's not enough to stop the bleeding. (Gary Locke/CBC)

On a regular day the airport will usually see about 80 flights per day, a combination of arriving and departing flights, but as the pandemic hit Newfoundland and Labrador in March airlines began reducing their schedules.

At its lowest point since March, the airport saw only six flights per day. It now has about 20 flights per day as a result of eased travel restrictions.

But the Atlantic bubble just isn't enough, said Avery. 

"The Atlantic region is only a fraction of our total travel during the summer. Obviously the vast majority of our travel for the summer comes from the rest of Canada," he said.

"That's really what we think is necessary as a next step."

Firefighting and security services have continued throughout the pandemic, and while most of the airport's shops and restaurants remain closed, YellowBelly and the visitor information centre have reopened with limited hours.

The airport's western wing expansion remains halted.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Anthony Germain and Christine Davies

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