Saskatchewan

Regina's airport sees just 1 to 5 per cent of normal traffic amid pandemic

Regina's airport is feeling the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic and has had to lay off 18 full-time employees as revenue dropped 90 per cent.

Less customers through the airport is having ripple effect on services, jobs in facility

The Regina airport is feeling strain from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent measures put in place by the government to reduce the spread of the virus. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

Regina's airport is feeling the strain brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

James Bogusz, president and CEO of the airport authority, said things started to taper off by the middle of March, when measures taken by the federal and provincial governments to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were coming into place.

"As moved into April we really hit rock bottom," Bogusz said on CBC Saskatchewan's Afternoon Edition

"We're really seeing from one to five per cent of the usual traffic we would have normally seen at pre-COVID levels. Frankly it's been absolutely devastating." 

He said it's an airport's job to serve the community, not only through providing commercial travel but through cargo, medivacs and other aviation services. 

Bogusz said the airport is a not-for-profit that makes money through passengers and airlines using their facilities. During the pandemic, with limited traffic through its doors, the airport has seen a 90 per cent loss in revenue, he said.

The airport typically staffs 51 full-time employees, with five or six seasonal employees. Eighteen full-time employees have been laid off.

"We'll certainly beef back up a little bit in the winter when we have snow operations to deal with, but we are in a world where the airport is really almost as if it was 15 years ago," Bogusz said. 

Because businesses inside the airport rely on passengers going through, their operating hours have had to be reduced. Bogusz said some have had to close or shut down on specific days of the week. 

Bogusz said because the airport is self-funded, it's hard to offer a break to business tenants, but the agreements they have with the airport could help keep them afloat. 

He said  rent is based on a percentage of their sales, so with less people coming into the airport, the authority is receiving less money from them. He noted the federal government recently announced some concessions for rent, which the airport authority will examine.

Bogusz said the airport has maintained a cash reserve which has given it a small cushion, but going into the summer months the airport may have to find loans to cover its essential operational costs.

Measures needed for consumer confidence to return

Bogusz said aircraft being tightly packed and airports having longer lines are two things that might keep people away. 

Moving ahead, Bogusz said reasonable measures need to be in place that give people confidence to return to airports. 

"We just can't have people spaced out six feet easily in all areas of their travel experience and I think that's going to erode some consumer confidence until such time as some of these measures are lifted," he said. 

With files from the Afternoon Edition

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