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Coronavirus: Calgary Airport Authority lays off one-third of staff as travel drops

More layoffs this week in Calgary as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise
WATCH: About 100 people have been laid off at YYC Calgary International Airport as organizations respond to growing impacts of COVID-19. Christa Dao reports.

The Calgary Airport Authority confirmed Friday it’s saying goodbye to one-third of its staff due to plummeting passenger volumes as countries suspend flights in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The recent events are far beyond what any of us could have ever imagined,” said Reid Fiest, the media and external communications manager with Calgary Airport Authority.

“At YYC, we call our staff ‘crew’ because they’re all part of our guests’ travel journey.”

Calgary Airport CEO on COVID-19 impacts
Calgary Airport CEO on COVID-19 impacts

READ MORE: COMMENTARY: ‘Eerie’ absence of air travel amid coronavirus has repercussions on economy

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“With passenger volumes decreasing dramatically, our airport has been forced to say farewell to talented, valued and committed Crew members, many on a temporary basis.”

On March 18, Air Canada said it would “gradually suspend” the majority of its international flights by the end of March amid Canada’s and other countries’ moves to close their borders and slow the spread of the virus.

READ MORE: Air Canada to suspend most U.S., international flights amid coronavirus pandemic

WestJet to cut workforce by nearly 6,900 people amid COVID-19 pandemic
WestJet to cut workforce by nearly 6,900 people amid COVID-19 pandemic

Less than a week later, WestJet Airlines Ltd. announced roughly half of its 14,000 employees would leave the company — some temporarily — due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alberta health officials now stationed at international arrivals at Calgary airport
Alberta health officials now stationed at international arrivals at Calgary airport

Prior to the layoffs, the airport authority had about 300 Crew members.

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Fiest said the company is hoping to re-hire employees when the flight restrictions are dropped.

READ MORE: WestJet announces layoffs for nearly 50% of staff due to COVID-19, Air Canada reduces pilots

“These kinds of decisions are very difficult and we hope that as the crisis eases, and air travel resumes, we may be able to welcome many of these Crew members back.

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“The community is counting on YYC Calgary International Airport to make it through these changes,” he said.

The Business Council of Alberta said increased layoffs and other small business closures that the city has seen are going to have a long-term impact on Alberta’s already struggling economy.

President Adam Legge told Global News on Friday they estimate the unemployment rate will only increase.

“Based on what we have seen, in some of the unemployment numbers, EI filings that came out this week and some [information] of the Angus Reid survey firm, our estimation is that the unemployment rate in Alberta right now is between 14 and 25 per cent,” he said.

“We’re worried about what this means for Canadians and Albertans right now day to day, but long term, I’m worried we’re going to have a large unemployment problem going forward once we’re post-COVID crisis.”

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Legge said the mood in the business community is one of concern and worry about the uncertain future.

“Business leaders in Alberta are worried about what this means long term for the oil and gas sector, what this means for employment, revenue and what the ultimate long-term picture looks like — there are worries for their colleagues and their families and worries for Alberta’s economic picture.”

–With files from Christa Dao.

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