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Winnipeg airport sees 95% drop in passengers during coronavirus: WAA

James A. Richardson International Airport saw a 95 per cent drop in travellers in April through June, the WAA said Tuesday. Elisha Dacey/Global News

The head of the Winnipeg Airports Authority says it could take years for the city’s airport to get back on solid ground after seeing a 95 per cent drop in passengers between April and June due to COVID-19.

Numbers from the WAA show the airport had fewer than 56,000 people go through its gates during the second quarter of 2020, down from 1.1 million over the same period of 2019.

Read more: Traffic plummets, signs replace travellers at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport

“The sharp drop in traffic has been felt at airports around the world and Winnipeg has not been immune,” said Barry Rempel, president and CEO of the WAA, in a release.

“This will be a slow recovery taking years to return to 2019 levels.”

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The worst day came April 11 when just 59 passengers departed from James Richardson International Airport, according to the WAA numbers.

The Manitoba government imposed public health orders requiring anyone entering the province to self-isolate for 14 days in March, and the federal government has banned cross border travel between Canada and the United States to help stem the spread of the virus.

Read more: Andrew Scheer, Brian Pallister spotted without masks on at Pearson International Airport

Manitoba has since lifted the self-isolation requirement for those arriving from western provinces, but a recent plan to loosen the requirements for those travelling from the east was taken off the table when Manitobans expressed concerns over the idea.

On Monday, Manitoba’s chief public health officer said he’s keeping an eye on rising case counts in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and said the self-isolation rules could be put back in place for those coming from western provinces if needed.

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Financial turbulence

The sharp drop in passengers means WAA’s consolidated revenue for the second quarter of 2020 rang in at $11.6 million, compared to $33.5 million in 2019.

That led to a loss of $3.2 million before interest, depreciation and taxes in the second quarter, the WAA says, compared to the $16.3 million they earned in last year’s second quarter.

Read more: Masks are mandatory at Winnipeg airport starting Wednesday

While passenger traffic fell dramatically, the WAA says there was good news in the cargo sector, which held steady during the travel lockdowns imposed during the early days of the pandemic.

Cargo plane landings were up 2.1 per cent in the second quarter over the same time last year, as medical supplies and personal protective equipment were moved in and out of the region.

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To mitigate the significant financial hit, the airport’s authority laid off about 25 per cent of its staff in June and has cancelled or paused all non-essential capital projects.

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Operating budgets have also been cut, salaries have been reduced, and the WAA says it’s saved some money by shutting down some areas of the terminal left empty by the drop in traffic.

Read more: Coronavirus: Layoffs coming to Winnipeg airport as traffic drops

“WAA is focused on taking the right steps today to mitigate the impact while keeping the company and airport sustainable in the future,” Rempel said.

“The global pandemic has impacted the aviation and tourism industries in ways no one could have predicted.”

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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