The Saskatoon Airport Authority (SAA) is still recovering from taking a hit in 2021 as its passenger numbers declined from 1.5 million departing passengers to roughly 430,000 passengers.
The SAA is a private not-for-profit corporation that relies on a user-pay revenue model based on passenger and aircraft traffic. SAA said this was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as travel was limited and halted in some cases.
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“We saw about 30 per cent traffic of what we would have seen in a normal year,” said CJ Dushinski, vice-president business development and service quality with Skyxe Saskatoon Airport. “Compared to 2020, is the first year that we really saw the impact of the pandemic.”
Dushinski said the SAA has been under extreme pressure since the onset of the pandemic and that losing passenger traffic affected the organization. She says the SAA is nowhere near a growth position.
“At one point, we had been down 90 to 95 per cent of our total passenger traffic,” she said. “We do rely on users to pay our bills at the end of the day so when we lost 95 per cent of our traffic … it’s taken lot of work, sacrifice and compromise from our team to get to a place where I would say stabilize.”
The SAA received some financial help from the federal government last year where it received $16.4 million to be invested in critical infrastructure and operations.
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“We’re feeling a bit more optimistic about things to come next year,” said Dushinski.
The ultimate goal for the SAA is to recover to pre-pandemic levels but it still has a ways to go.
“Getting back to adding new routes and more passenger traffic rather than just trying to get back to where we were,” she said. “We’re really looking into 2024 before we get to that point.”
The SAA will be re-establishing air service by adding several new seasonal routes and welcoming back many previously served destinations suspended through 2020. It is looking forward to welcoming WestJet’s return to sun travel in early 2022, as well as Swoop Airline’s previously announced service to Edmonton starting this spring.
Dushinski encourages passengers to do their homework online to see if they will be to fly and return back as restrictions change due to COVID-19.