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Edmonton International Airport lays off 40% of workers as passenger traffic drops by 95%

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Edmonton Airports announced Wednesday it was forced to reduce its workforce by up to 40 per cent, a move that is expected to impact up to 100 union and non-union positions at the international airport.

EIA explained the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have “a crippling effect on airports and the aviation industry” and that the group already took “aggressive cost-cutting measures and examined all other alternatives” before looking at layoffs.

“Edmonton Airports has officially served notice to our union and these workforce reductions are expected to begin after June 30,” the corporation said in a news release.

Temperature testing, screening for international travellers coming to Alberta
Temperature testing, screening for international travellers coming to Alberta

In 2019, Edmonton International Airport moved 8.15 million passengers. This year, it’s estimated EIA will move only about 2.7 million passengers.

“Passenger traffic has reduced by approximately 95 per cent and the airport is not expected to return to 2019 passenger traffic levels until at least three years from now,” the airport said.

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Coronavirus: Airport hotels especially quiet these days
Coronavirus: Airport hotels especially quiet these days

“Revenues have declined by approximately 90 per cent in the last two months. There is no choice but to reduce labour costs in line with the new passenger traffic reality. This will safeguard the future of our airport and its role as a not-for-profit economic catalyst in our region.”

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

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Before reducing its workforce, EIA offered voluntary unpaid leave and voluntary early retirement incentives to employees.

Capital spending was cut by 75 per cent “to cover only essential safety and regulatory projects” and non-labour costs were cut by $50 million, the airport said.

READ MORE: WestJet says it’s laying off 1,700 pilots due to coronavirus crisis

“This is a difficult and sad day for Edmonton Airports, and we regret having to take these steps,” president and CEO Tom Ruth said. “We feel this loss profoundly.

“Our critical operational and financial challenges demanded that we take this course of action to ensure we can continue to provide our region with key services including passenger, cargo and air ambulance flights.”

READ MORE: Air Canada looking to cut roughly 20,000 positions amid COVID-19 crisis

Edmonton Airports shared its deep gratitude for its employees, their contributions, and said it will “redouble our efforts to fulfill our mission of creating economic prosperity for our region during the eventual recovery phase from COVID-19.”

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Edmonton International Airport is Canada’s fifth-busiest airport by passenger traffic and the largest major Canadian airport by land area.