Air travel in Saskatchewan has been up and down throughout the past two years, with many COVID-19 restrictions keeping travelers grounded. However, as restrictions lift, more flights are set to take off.
“Through the year we were excited to add several new seasonal routes, as well as welcome back many previously served destinations, suspended through 2020,” said Stephen Maybury, Saskatoon Airport Authority president and CEO.
The airports are experiencing about 70 per cent of pre-pandemic passenger volumes, he said.
Before the pandemic, the Regina airport would have about 25 commercial departures a day, but right now they have 13 departures.
“A few days of the week, we had over 70 per cent of pre-pandemic passenger volumes coming through YQR. It is very exciting, it actually felt like we had an airport again,” said James Bogusz, Regina Airport president and CEO.
While the demand for flight travel is rising, there still aren’t many direct flights.
During the COVID-19 peak, many routes were cancelled due to travel restrictions and a lack of passengers. At one point Regina was down to three commercial departures a day.
“We have reestablished all of the previous pre-pandemic services to all of the major Canadian airports we serve. So some of the really big ones, of course, are Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto, being the mega-hub for Canada,” Bogusz said.
At Saskatoon’s airport, many people are heading out and returning. Passengers seem glad that flying is starting to look a little more normal.
“We thought maybe there was going to be more showing of the documentation, and there wasn’t so my husband and I kept asking ‘when do we do this, when do we do that.’ (They said) ‘don’t worry about it,’” said Alice Sadler.
“To get on the plane with the COVID vaccine, is just navigating the Air Canada website to upload the vaccination records,” said Jay Cooper.
The Regina airport expects more flights to become available as demand continues to increase. They’re already getting the flights to sunny destinations ready for this summer.
“It’s really only been the last few months where we’ve seen what I would call a more significant travel volume. I think there’s still people out there who have not been on a plane, you know, really since the beginning of the pandemic, and they’re just starting to feel more comfortable,” Bogusz said.
By June, Saskatchewan’s airports could be back to 90 per cent of the travel volume they had before the pandemic began, they say.