The departure bay at the Northwest Regional Airport has seen a sharp decrease in passengers, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)

Airport passenger numbers plummet in March

Reduced travel due to COVID-19 also hits airport finances hard

The Northwest Regional Airport saw a significant decrease in passengers last month following the COVID-19 outbreak.

There were 16,234 passengers in March, down from 22,835 in February. Last year in March the airport saw 23,722 passengers. Carman Hendry, airport manager, said passenger numbers remain low in April.

“It’s just dribbles, very few are getting on the aircraft,” he said, noting Air Canada and WestJet have both reduced their service to four afternoon flights per week.

The March statistics only include scheduled public flights, as the airport doesn’t keep an official count of passengers on chartered flights, Hendry said, but chartered passenger numbers are also down significantly after LNG Canada halved its Kitimat workforce mid-March in response to the pandemic.

“They still do have a charter [flight] but it’s substantially fewer passengers per flight than normal,” he said. “And it’s only one flight a week instead of three flights a week.”

Hendry said the airport is taking a financial hit because of the limited number of passengers and he is hard at work trying to keep the airport running without laying off employees.

“Especially here, the training that the employees have on site is very specialized so we really don’t want to let them go,” he said.

The airport is exploring options for financial support, Hendry said, including the federal wage subsidy program.

“We’ve begun to investigate our way into it to see if we qualify,” he said, noting details on the wage subsidy program are still being released by the government. “We’re still not satisfied with all the answers we’re getting yet.”

Hendry issued a request for the public to avoid entering the airport unless absolutely necessary.

“If you’re coming to the airport building and you’re not a passenger, please do not come in the building,” he said. “We want to make enough room for social distancing and [we] can’t do it when everybody wants to come in and meet their family or passenger.”

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