Regina International Airport seeks financial help from Ottawa amid coronavirus pandemic

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Regina International Airport seeks financial help from Ottawa amid coronavirus pandemic
WATCH: The Regina Airport Authority says it is strapped for cash. As Allison Bamford explains, the airport is now asking Ottawa for financial help as the coronavirus continues to thwart air travel. – Jun 4, 2020

The Regina Airport Authority says it is strapped for cash and is asking for help as the coronavirus crisis continues to thwart air travel.

James Bogusz, the authority’s president and CEO, asked Ottawa for assistance in funding its core operating expenses, through grant programs or forgivable loans.

“We’re talking about keeping the runway lights on, making sure the terminal building is safe and secure and having an appropriate amount of staff to keep this operation running,” Bogusz said.

READ MORE: Regina airport places tougher restrictions on residents trying to get home

The authority has been operating off of its cash reserves since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March. Bogusz estimates those reserves will dry up by the end of the summer.

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“It’s catastrophic to the airport,” Bogusz said.

“It’s incredibly challenging as we are a self-funded not-for-profit agency, which relies on passengers to collect revenue.”

Passenger traffic was down more than 98 per cent in April, according to Bogusz. He expects the numbers from May will be down at least 95 per cent from last year.

“Some days in the month of May we did not even have a single operating commercial flight, so we had zero passengers,” Bogusz said.

“It’s a far cry from what we need to fund even our most basic operational needs.”

In the last two months, revenue dropped more than 90 per cent, according to the authority.

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Without normal traffic volumes — which is typically 1,750 departing passengers per day — the authority loses out on the $20 “improvement fee” attached to each departing ticket.

“That helps us cover our debt and also ensures we can do safety-appropriate capital projects, all of which have been put on hold at this time,” Bogusz said.

READ MORE: Travel will never be the same, thanks to COVID-19

Regina-Wascana Member of Parliament Michael Kram brought up the issue in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Kram called on the federal government to issue relief programs similar to the United States.

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“The airport crisis goes far beyond my home city of Regina,” Kram said in Parliament. “Airports are vital to Canada’s economy, providing over 200,000 jobs nationwide, paying $13 billion in wages and $7 billion dollars in taxes.”

According to the federal government, Transport Minister Marc Garneau is in regular discussions with airports across the country figuring out ways to support them.

Saskatoon Airport Authority sees similar struggles

Coming off of its two busiest years in its history, the Saskatoon Airport Authority expects to see a 200 per cent drop in passenger totals for 2020.

“It’s been a pretty devastating decline,” said CJ Dushinski, vice-president of business development for the authority in Saskatoon.

“Year-over-year we’ve seen quite a bit of growth over the last five years.”

According to Dushinski, 500,000 passengers are expected to go through the airport this year.

In 2019, its total passengers reached 1.49 million. It recorded two million the year before.

While traffic is down, that doesn’t mean expenses decrease for the 24-7 facility.

“Our cost structure has been severely challenged by the fact that not a lot has changed for us in terms of costs,” Dushinski said.

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“In fact, it’s increased. We have pandemic cleaning that’s in place and additional costs that we’re incurring because of the pandemic and a complete loss in revenue.”

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