Canada’s Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra was on hand for the announcement Wednesday morning.
The federal government is providing EIA with $18.5 million from Transport Canada’s Airport Critical Infrastructure Program for improvements, including upgrades to runways and airfield lighting. The work will begin later this year and is expected to be completed in 2024.
These projects will help ensure continued safety for passengers, aircrews and airport employees, according to the feds.
Close to $6.2 million in federal funding will come from Transport Canada’s Airport Relief Fund to help it maintain continued airport operations and essential air services for residents and workers in Edmonton and surrounding communities.
The airport was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which closed the facility to international travellers last year.
The airport typically offers between 53 to 55 non-stop destinations, but that dropped to 13 when the pandemic hit.
Passenger numbers plummeted as a result. On a normal day, EIA typically serves about 10,000 departing passengers. That number dropped to about 300 per day at the most difficult time of the pandemic. Last week, the airport said it was slowly gaining back passenger traffic, serving about 5,000 departing passengers per day.
“As we move forward with the safe gradual return of activity in the aviation sector, both in Canada and internationally, in a way that continues to support the health, safety, and security of all Canadians, it will be imperative that we continue to ensure a vibrant and competitive Canadian air sector,” Alghabra said in a news release.
“These critical investments at the Edmonton International Airport will help maintain airport and passenger safety and security, and improve operational efficiency and connectivity by ensuring the airport continues to meet all federal safety standards.”
Located in Leduc County, EIA is a critical contributor to the area’s local economy. The mayor of Leduc County said the funding will allow the airport to continue to drive business in the area and bring tourists to the region.
“Like many other airports throughout Canada, EIA operations were drastically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s announcement is welcome news,” Tanni Doblanko said.
“EIA is essential for the economic recovery of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, Alberta, and northern Canada,” EIA CEO Tom Ruth said.
“Restoring strong, international air service is an imperative for our business community, the tourism visitor economy and passengers. This important federal funding will help us maintain operations and start infrastructure improvements to enhance safety.”
EIA is preparing to welcome back international travellers for the first time in 16 months.
Last week, the federal government announced American citizens and permanent residents who want to come to Canada for non-essential reasons and are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be allowed to do so starting on Aug. 9.
Fully vaccinated travellers from other countries will be allowed to come as of Sept. 7.