Saskatchewan

Flair Airlines to pause Regina flights as travel demand dwindles during pandemic

After starting operations in Regina this past summer, low-cost carrier Flair Airlines is pausing flights for the first two months of next year due to a drop in the number of travellers.

With Regina airport traffic down to 15% of normal, 'our cash is all but run out': airport authority CEO

With diminished travel demand, 'we are down to maybe a month or a month-and-a-half's worth of cash left in the bank, and we'll be into our line of credit,' says the CEO of the Regina Airport Authority. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

The Regina International Airport welcomed Flair Airlines to the city in August, but the low-cost carrier is already hitting pause on its flights due to record-low travel demand.

The Edmonton-based airline had been offering trips from Regina to Vancouver and Toronto twice a week for more than 180 passengers.

However, Flair has informed the Regina Airport Authority that it will be halting its operations in the city from Jan. 6 to Feb. 28, 2021.

The airline hopes to resume flights on March 4, pending travel needs and COVID-19 case numbers across the country. 

"As disappointed as we are, the reality is the travel demand just isn't there right now," said the authority's CEO, James Bogusz. 

He noted YQR has gotten slower over the past few months, despite the holidays approaching. 

Last month, Bogusz said the airport only saw about 15 per cent of its pre-pandemic traffic, and this month is already trending even worse. 

"Basically, we're in a position now where our cash is all but run out. We are down to maybe a month or a month-and-a-half's worth of cash left in the bank, and we'll be into our line of credit," he said.

Since March, Bogusz noted the airport has had to permanently lay off 30 per cent of its staff. 

"It's been devastating," he said. "Typically, airports are a stable and growing type of sector."

But in the current situation, the airport has had to "look at every expense line, reduce our staff to a more rational level in terms of what we can anticipate volumes to be going forward," Bogusz said.

With $65 million slated for airport authorities in the federal government's latest fiscal update, Bogusz said his team is "anxiously awaiting" to see what fraction of that money they get.

"At this point, right now, we are in follow-up mode with the government, asking when we can expect some support outside of the wage subsidy, which we have been taking advantage of and using throughout the pandemic," he said.

Looking to the year ahead, Bogusz said the airport is already forecasting weak demand, at 30 to 40 per cent of normal passenger volume. With that, he noted, there will be "many millions" lost in traveller shortfall revenue.

With files from Kevin O'Connor

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