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‘Catastrophic reduction’: Regina airport grapples with financial challenges, reduced travel demand

Click to play video: 'Regina airport grapples with financial challenges, reduced travel demand'
Regina airport grapples with financial challenges, reduced travel demand
WATCH: The Regina International Airport saw about 15 per cent of its usual passenger traffic in December. – Jan 9, 2021

The Regina International Airport experienced a “catastrophic reduction” in the number of passengers that went through its doors in 2020 as pandemic restrictions dampened demand for travel.

While those numbers are expected to improve in 2021, the financial hardships aren’t going away.

“The good news is people are listening to those travel recommendations,” said Regina Airport Authority president and CEO James Bogusz.

“The bad news is we don’t have any revenue coming in to actually pay our costs.”

Read more: Mishap involving catering truck and plane causes flight delays at Regina airport

The Regina airport dropped down to just 15 per cent of its usual passenger traffic in December. All of 2020 saw about 30 per cent of the airport’s normal levels, according to Bogusz.

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The airport authority makes its money off of passenger fees tacked onto things such as travel, parking and rentals.

Fewer passengers means less revenue.

Typically the airport generates about $30 million a year, according to Bogusz, which is just slightly more than its costs.

Even with trimming expenses by about 30 per cent — coming in the form of layoffs, operating budget reductions and capital program alterations — the airport authority is expected to lose about $6 million from 2020.

Read more: NAV Canada could scale back operations at Regina airport following review

Assuming travel picks up this year, the CEO says 2021 will likely end with the airport losing another $4 million.

Accumulating $10 million in debt would be “absolutely unsustainable,” according to Bogusz.

“We have made our cuts already, we have really reduced down to a relatively bare-bones operation, making sure though we maintain levels of safety, security and all our regulatory obligations,” he said.

“That’s why we’ve gone to Ottawa.”

In the fall economic statement, the federal government said it earmarked $65 million for airport authorities “to further assist airports to manage the financial implications of reduced air travel.”

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Read more: Airport industry group calls for aid as pandemic lockdown chokes off revenue

While Bogusz says he doesn’t know how or when those funds will be distributed, he’s asked Ottawa to help offset the revenue losses in order to cover the bills and pay staff.

“We can’t increase the cost to travel. We can’t be in a position to drive up costs to airlines who are also struggling,” Bogusz said.

“If we’re crippled with heavy debt and our fees are up, we’re not going to be competitive.”

In a statement to Global News, Transport Canada says it’s “currently working on next steps and is actively engaging with stakeholders.”

Transport Canada did not provide a timeline as to when the funds would be allocated.

Click to play video: 'NAV Canada could scale back operations at Regina airport following review'
NAV Canada could scale back operations at Regina airport following review

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