Canadian Airport Council calls for more government support

The introduction of new travel restrictions and quarantine measures has left the aviation sector struggling to stay afloat

Canada’s airports are calling upon the federal and provincial governments to work with the aviation industry to aid its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling the sector to continue to support travel, tourism and trade beyond the crisis.

The Canadian Airport Council says a plan must be set out to restart travel once restrictions are lifted, ensuring that the country comes out of the pandemic with a competitive aviation sector.

Gander International Airport
Photo Gander International Airport

December figures released by CAC reveal that revenue losses for airports in the region have declined to $5.5bn (£3.1bn) for 2020 and 2021, after new travel restrictions and testing requirements were implemented.

Daniel-Robert Gooch, president of the CAC, believes the government is “missing the sense of urgency to act quickly and decisively” leading to further losses.

“Without government action, air travel will not only become a lot more expensive, but Canadians everywhere will have fewer choices of routes and destinations, including at the four major hub airports.”

It is expected that 20% of financial aid outlined in the Federal Fall Economic Statement will be received in the form of grants to help address operational losses. Therefore, Canada’s airports speculate that a further $2.8bn (£1.6bn) will be added to the substantial debt formulated throughout 2020 and 2021.

Before the pandemic, the regions airports were mostly funded by passenger and aeronautical fees. Since the decline in traffic, this has put pressure many hubs. The government’s plans to distribute rent relief and subsidise wages only provided minimal aid, according to CAC.

Last March, the government announced it would be providing the sector with $330m (£188m) in relief. Data collected by CAC highlights that the waiver only saved $137m (£78m) – benefitting just four airports.

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) provided $139m (£79m) to support facilities throughout 2020, with 84% of those funds being given to four of the busiest hubs in the country. It was also found that around 200 sites in the region are not eligible to apply for the programme.

The CAC outlined some of the necessary steps the government can take to prevent the situation from worsening. These include working with the regions airports and partners to restart the industry, issuing a moratorium on ground lease rents, expanding national transportation infrastructure funding and making the Airports Capital Assistance Program funding a permanent source of aid.