Winnipeg flight options fewer this winter: ‘We’re a smaller airport now’

James A. Richardson International Airport. Elisha Dacey/Global News

For a lot of Winnipeggers, a week or two away from the bitter cold in the deep of winter is an annual experience.

But with travel advisories in place across the globe — and the prospect of a 14-day quarantine upon passengers’ return back to Canada — the Winnipeg Airports Authority is preparing for a much different season at James Richardson International airport.

Although flight volumes and passenger numbers were starting a slow climb near the end of summer, it was still nowhere near normal.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, Winnipeg’s airport saw as few as 56 passengers a day, which is down significantly from the daily average of 13,000.

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

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On Friday, Swoop Airlines announced it won’t have service out of YWG for the time being — joining fellow vacation airline Transat.

“United [Airlines], which has been flying to the U.S., isn’t providing service right now as well, with obvious reasons because of the border being closed,” says Tyler McAfee of the Winnipeg Airports Authority.

McAfee adds Sunwing Airlines, which also offers flights to sunny destinations such as Mexico, the Bahamas and Cuba, is involved in “ongoing conversations” with the airport as the airline finalizes its winter schedule.

“Things are changing so fast for airlines right now as restrictions come and go, and [consumer] confidence changes,” McAfee says. “What we’re going to see in this market, is we’re a smaller airport now. We’ll be under 2 million passengers this year, we’re projecting the same for next year. Our level of service will reflect that.”
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With limited, quarantine-free options for Manitobans, McAfee expects these traffic volumes to remain the norm through what’s usually the airport’s busiest season, unless something changes.

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“Our challenge remains the border outside of the country is closed, and in Manitoba, anything east is closed. Until we see that open up, we’re not going to see an increase in traffic.”

McAfee says snowbirds who are willing to do the 14-day self-isolation when they get back don’t have to worry just yet, as WestJet and Air Canada will be offering service to warmer destinations throughout the winter.

–With a file from Shane Gibson

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