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Coronavirus: Calgary airport sees 95% drop in passengers in April

Click to play video 'More layoffs this week in Calgary as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise' More layoffs this week in Calgary as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise
WATCH (March 27): About 100 people have been laid off at YYC Calgary International Airport as organizations respond to growing impacts of COVID-19. Christa Dao reports – Mar 27, 2020

Calgary International Airport is one of many organizations in the city that is feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In April, officials said the airport saw a 95 per cent decrease in passengers, with only 67,000 guests throughout the entire month — that’s the same number the airport would usually see in one day during the busy summer months.

READ MORE: New screening measures, temperature checks coming for international travellers who arrive in Alberta

“Our airport has never seen such a steep decline in its history,” vice president and chief financial officer of the Calgary Airport Authority, Rob Palmer, said in a news release on Wednesday.

“We are projecting 65 per cent fewer guests in 2020 compared to last year. We expect YYC will go from a record 18 million passengers in 2019 to approximately 6.4 million in 2020 — that’s roughly the same passenger volume as we had in 1996.”

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Palmer said the pandemic will have a lasting effect on air travel to and from Calgary, which may take years to recover from.

“After Sept. 11, 2001, YYC experienced a four per cent decrease in passenger activity, while the 2008 financial crash only resulted in a 2.5 per cent drop,” he said.

“Based on current forecasts, a recovery to 2019 passenger volumes could take three to five years, or longer.”

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However, Palmer also noted that the airport will be seeing some positive changes in the coming weeks, as the organization looks to add almost 80 members of staff back to its payroll after being temporarily laid off in March due to the pandemic.

Palmer said the airport is able to rehire employees thanks to its eligibility to participate in the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program.

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The Calgary Airport Authority noted that the employees will receive the maximum benefit of $847 per week, but are not required to return to work.

Salary reductions taken by authority executive leaders and senior managers remain in effect for the immediate future.

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Officials also noted the airport’s growth in air cargo, stating that in the first three months of 2020, air cargo landings have increased by 17 per cent. Officials said they expect that trend to continue as its partners work to meet the rising demand of e-commerce and the movement of critical supplies needed for healthcare providers.

READ MORE: Calgary airport announces partial terminal closures amid COVID-19 pandemic

Officials also noted that Calgary Airport’s federal rent has been waived until the end of 2020, however, added that with the current downturn in air traffic, the airport will require additional financial supports into 2021.

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“Airports, airlines and the aviation industry will be forever changed by the pandemic, and we will need financial help from the government to sustain our operations and to help lead in the recovery,” he said.

“While our hope is that we are not forced to increase fees to airlines or guests, without government financial assistance we have few other options,” Palmer said.