Some $4.5 million in federal funding landed at the London International Airport on Tuesday morning with the aim of helping the business fly steady amid the financial turbulence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The non-repayable grant from FedDev Ontario was announced by London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos with the funding stemming from the federal government’s Regional Air Transportation Initiative (RATI).
“That funding is absolutely critical and will be used for a few specific things, that includes helping take care of costs relating to utilities, property taxes, cleaning costs, materials and supply costs as well,” Fragiskatos said.
“It’s going to be critical for this support to help offset the decline that the airport has unfortunately seen, along with obviously so many other declines at airports across the country.”
The federal grant was much appreciated by London International Airport president and CEO Mike Seabrook, who says the pandemic was especially hard for regional airports.
Prior to the pandemic, the airport typically brought in $14 million in annual revenue with about $9 million in expenses per year, Seabrook said.
In 2020, the airport’s annual revenue dropped to just over $3 million.
“Our expenses far exceed our revenue. We have everything from utilities to maintenance to municipal property tax to salary and wages. These are all things we had to maintain,” Seabrook added.
“We depleted our reserves almost entirely and this is a lifeline that’s going to help the airport kind of regroup and get ready to go again for the return of aviation.”
Daily passenger flights are starting to pick back up at the airport, but are still far below the 35 to 40 daily flights seen before the pandemic.
Seabrook says the airport is currently in discussions with airlines, which have been very cautious about bringing back service.
“They bring back some flights, wait till the loads and the success is positive on the flights, and then they add service,” Seabrook said.
“We had four flights in July, we’re up to six in August, and we would expect to kind of keep going to eight to 10 to 12 as we progress through the fall.”
The president and CEO added that the airport also plans on taking a cautious approach and let demand drive what’s being done from an expenditure aspect.
“They are talking about recovery taking about three to five years. … Hopefully it’s quicker for us, but we’re going to need (the $4.5 million) over the next year for sure.”