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Despite hurdles, Winnipeg airport maintains strong traffic numbers

James A. Richardson International Airport.
James A. Richardson International Airport. Elisha Dacey/Global News

Traffic at Winnipeg’s airport held steady in 2019, but fell short of what was expected to be record growth.

Winnipeg Airports Authority (WAA) spokeperson Tyler MacAfee told 680 CJOB that the spring 2019 grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX  had an effect on traffic coming out of Winnipeg Richardson International Airport last year.

The WAA said the transport hub was on pace for its sixth year of record numbers, but when the 737 MAX was taken out of service last March, following two deadly 2018 crashes involving the airliner, growth stalled.

READ MORE: Max 8 grounding shouldn’t affect Winnipeg travellers: airport

“It wasn’t just the routes being serviced by the MAX 8 aircraft that were cancelled,” said MacAfee. “The airlines had to readjust their fleets, so they pulled some planes that were flying routes to Winnipeg on different aircraft, and repositioning those on other routes that would have been served by the MAX 8.

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“So it really was a readjustment across the board.”

Despite the impact of the MAX 8 grounding, the airport still saw 4.5 million passengers overall in 2019, matching the previous year’s totals.

Barry Rempel Winnipeg Airports Authority
Barry Rempel, president and CEO of the Winnipeg Airports Authority. Tamara Forlanski / Global News / File

There was, however, an increase in cargo traffic last year.

The number of cargo planes landing in Winnipeg grew by 4.2 per cent over 2018, and gross takeoff weight — meaning larger aircraft moving more goods in and out of Winnipeg — was also up by 7.6 per cent.

Click to play video 'Travel tips from the Winnipeg Airport' Travel tips from the Winnipeg Airport
Travel tips from the Winnipeg Airport – Jan 27, 2020

“The significant growth in cargo traffic in 2019 demonstrates our strategic partnerships and investment in the airport’s cargo facilities are paying off,” said WAA president and CEO Barry Rempel.

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“Everything from fresh cut flowers to agricultural equipment moves through Winnipeg Richardson International Airport, supporting Manitoba business, creating jobs and driving economic growth.”

In early 2020, the airport says it will be continuing progress on upgrades to the terminal building, as well as plans to upgrade its Tim Hortons locations inside the terminal and add a new lounge.