Saskatchewan airports seeing rebound in air passenger traffic this summer

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Saskatchewan airports seeing rebound in air passenger traffic this summer
Stats Canada released a report on Wednesday, confirming what many already knew -- air traffic numbers in 2020 were drastically lower than what the country saw in 2019. Taz Dhaliwal has more on where we stand now and whether 2021 numbers will be much different. – Aug 25, 2021

New data from Statistics Canada shows how much of a sharp drop in air travel airports across the country saw in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There were 45,897,143 total flight passengers that either ascended or descended across the country last year. This is a massive drop off from 162,864,077 in 2019.

In Saskatchewan, that number was at 890,001 in 2020, down from 2,762,317 in 2019. The provincial average between 2016 and 2019 was 2,215,719 passengers.

“It has been pretty devastating,” stated CJ Dushinski, vice-president of business development and service quality for the John G. Diefenbaker Airport in Saskatoon.

“From the volume of people around the building, the layoffs, it was really difficult for us. A lot of our food and beverage outlets are still closed, which is frustrating for our passengers.”

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Saskatoon saw 463,531 passengers in 2020, a decrease from 1,482,538 a year prior.

“For us locally, at the worst of the pandemic, we did see a 98 per cent decrease in passenger traffic at around April 2020, and we never really recovered after that since we finished the year about 69 per cent down from what we would have seen compared to 2019,” Dushinski explained.

As for Regina, there were 363,409 total passengers last year compared to 1,168,390 in 2019.

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James Bogusz, president and CEO of the Regina Airport Authority, said the Regina airport was trending at about 10 per cent passenger volume until May of this year.

He said they’re not out of the woods yet, but passenger volumes have been on the positive side during the summer months.

“After our province and the province of Alberta announced relaxations to travel, we started seeing other provinces do those things similarly over the summer months,” noted Bogusz. “We’ve seen a significant rebound in passenger volumes.”

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Bogusz mentioned how passenger volumes have grown upwards of 50-plus per cent on peak days during June, July and into August.

He attributed the growth an increase in flight options to key hubs such as Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto, and brand-new routes to destinations like Kelowna.

For Skyxe, the first few months of the year were described by Duchinski as the “worst case scenario” since the airport saw figures down about 80 per cent from what they would usually see in those months. However, traffic has also picked up at the airport this summer.

“Things picked up quite significantly in July and August with about 50 per cent of what we saw in 2019, which is quite a significant recovery considering where we were at,” said Duchinski. “It’s positive, but we still have a long way to go.”

Both Duchinski and Bogusz indicated that numbers could soften in September with summer holidays coming to an end and schools back in session, and of course the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 variant concerns.

“I’m certainly not in the medical field and I’m not going to hazard a guess as to what might happen with potential restrictions, but what I can say is that we appreciate the leadership our province has shown in reopening, which has been helpful in getting our airport to rebound,” Bogusz added.

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“For each person, they are going to do their own assessment on whether travel is right for them now. However, when you’re ready to travel, our airport is ready to welcome you.”

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