Calgary International 1 of 4 Canadian airports to accept international flights during COVID-19 pandemic

YYC Calgary International Airport 1 of 4 Canadian airports receiving international flights
WATCH: YYC Calgary International Airport is one of four airports in Canada remaining open to international arrival. Gil Tucker looks at what officials are doing to prepare for the changes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new travel restrictions in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday, explaining that the Calgary International Airport is one of only four airports in Canada that will accept international flights starting Wednesday.

READ MORE: Trudeau closes Canadian borders to foreign travellers amid coronavirus outbreak

“I know that these measures are far-reaching,” Trudeau said. “They are exceptional circumstances calling for exceptional measures.”

Global News has reached WestJet and is awaiting its response.

YYC focused on ‘sustaining essential services’ and helping Canadians returning home during COVID-19 pandemic
YYC focused on ‘sustaining essential services’ and helping Canadians returning home during COVID-19 pandemic

READ MORE: Edmonton airport shut down to international flights to prevent COVID-19: Trudeau

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Calgary Airport Authority president and CEO Bob Sartor addressed the anxiety people may feel as the pandemic evolves, stressing that the airport’s priority is safety.

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“YYC will assist our airline agency and public health partners in repatriating Canadians as a result of the pandemic and at the government’s request that all Canadians abroad return home,” he said.

“Our immediate priority is sustaining essential services to facilitate the swift, safe return of Canadians abroad.”

Calgary Airport Authority president and CEO Bob Sartor speaks to media on Monday, March 16, 2020.
Calgary Airport Authority president and CEO Bob Sartor speaks to media on Monday, March 16, 2020. Gil Tucker/Global News

Sartor said the airport will rise to the occasion through increasing cleaning protocols, increasing communications to the public and suspending the White Hat volunteer program.

He said nothing in the past comes close to the impact the outbreak is having.

“SARS didn’t, 9/11 didn’t, and really neither did the 2008-09 downturn have an effect anywhere near as deep as this one,” he said.

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Economic hit

Sartor said with declining flight bookings, cancelled routes and quickly changing travel restrictions, business will take a hit.

“We’re estimating a minimum 30 per cent drop in our 2020 passenger volumes compared to last year or approximately five million guests,” he explained. “These decreases could lead, at a minimum, to a $100-million reduction in our revenues, close to 25 per cent of the authority’s annual $450-million budget.”

Sartor said those numbers are preliminary estimates that will change as COVID-19’s magnitude becomes clear.

“Rest assured the airport will stay open to move people and cargo through this pandemic,” he said, noting that the cargo business is booming because people are ordering online.

He said the authority is managing its business assuming that travel will be down for the entire year.

“What we’re doing is expecting the worst and hoping for the best,” he said, adding that work still has to get done.

“I think the bigger challenge is just managing what I call a stub period between where we are today and where we expect to be by the end of the year, which is having had this hopefully run its course.”

Sartor said the authority is working hard to minimize costs and maximize effeciency. He said it is looking at rotating workforce, adding that airport team has reacted really well to the situation, given the stress they are under.

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READ MORE: Alberta orders all classes cancelled, daycares closed as COVID-19 cases rise to 56 in the province

As of Sunday afternoon, Alberta had 56 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with the provincial government deciding to cancel K-12 and post-secondary classes and close daycares.