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COVID-19: Halifax International Airport Authority records largest financial loss ever

An Air Canada jet takes off from Halifax Stanfield International Airport in Enfield, N.S. on Thursday, March 8, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Halifax International Airport Authority (HIAA) announced that its total revenue in 2020 was $41.3 million, down from $114.4 million from 2019 — its largest financial loss ever recorded.
HIAA shared details in a report Thursday about how the pandemic has affected them and how it plans to recover from the loss.
“The drastic decline in activity … has eliminated most of our revenue streams and due to the lack of meaningful government support, we have been required to take on more debt,” said Joyce Carter, president and CEO of HIAA.
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According to the report, expenses exceeded revenue by $40.1 million in 2020, an unprecedented change from the surplus of revenue over expenses of $7.5 million reported in 2019.
HIAA explained that the surplus generated in a normal year would be reinvested into the airport.
“The pandemic has eliminated surpluses and with dramatically reduced revenue we were left to rely on borrowing to support operations for the better part of 2020,” said Paul Brigley, vice-president, finance and chief financial officer of HIAA.
There is also “significant uncertainty” around when air travel will start to safely recover, however, HIAA said it predicts it will take four to five years to return to 2019 levels.
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Despite the significant loss in revenue, HIAA noted that Halifax Stanfield remains open 24/7 to “facilitate critical medical and military flights, unexpected emergencies such as flight diversions, and air cargo deliveries of important goods and supplies, such as vaccines.”

Unlike commercial travel, air cargo activity was affected to a lesser degree. HIAA even saw a “modest increase” in cargo flight landings in 2020.

The report noted that cargo processed at Halifax Stanfield in 2020 was just under 33,000 metric tonnes, a decrease of just 19 per cent compared to 2019.

“While there was less overall aviation activity in 2020 than in years past, the work that’s done at Halifax Stanfield is critical to keeping our economy growing and communities connected,” said Carter.

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