Stephen Maybury said 2020 was a year like no other for Skyxe Saskatoon Airport.
Maybury, president and CEO of Skyxe, said the airport was well-positioned for growth heading into the new year. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March.
“Our revenues were decimated by passengers,” Maybury said.
Revenue dropped 98 per cent at one point, he said. And in the most recent data for December, passenger numbers are down 86 per cent relative to pre-COVID monthly numbers.
Maybury said Saskatoon International Airport is currently handling five to 10 flights daily. Prior to the pandemic, he said flight volumes were 30 to 40 flights per day.
The drop in traffic is impacting the airport’s bottom line. He said the drop in passengers translates into a forecasted loss of around $2 million to $2.5 million for the year, and the shortfall has to be funded with new and accumulating debt.
A similar situation is being faced by Regina International Airport, where passenger levels are at 30 per cent of the airport’s normal level, James Bogusz told Global News last month.
“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,” Bogusz said.
Maybury said what is needed is a plan to help airports facing a financial squeeze.
“It’s really a combination of all levels of government and our sector, quite frankly,” Maybury said.
“Given the deepening second wave crisis that we’re seeing right now, we’re in urgent need of targeted financial relief to bridge operating costs.”
Last fall, the federal government stated $65 million is earmarked for airport authorities across the country to assist with the “financial implications of reduced air travel.”
Transport Canada has not provided a timeline as to when those funds will be allocated.
Maybury said another factor to help airports recover is restoring air connectivity.
“And that’s to safely welcome the passengers back,” he said.
“The way that we have done it in Saskatoon is ensuring that the new practices that we are implementing in the airport are following global pre-eminence standards.”
Skyxe has implemented a number of contactless and sanitized processes for travellers at the airport, including self-serve bag drops, partitioned passenger flows and ultra-violet sanitization.
“That means, for example, when you come to our departure area, we leverage self-service backdrops and no-contact kiosks so you can literally drop your bag off with no contact points through there, as well as technologies such as ultraviolet handrail — sanitization processes to make sure all touchpoints are as health-based and safety-based as is possible,” Maybury said.
He added that despite travel uncertainty and restrictions, the airport remains open.
“We are dedicated to supporting Canada’s economic recovery by continuing to move cargo through our airport and ensure that local air ambulance and STARS organizations can continue to provide life-saving services.”
— With files from Allison Bamford.