The dramatic impact of COVID-19 and the global slowdown in air travel resulted in an over 95 percent decrease in passengers in April. Approximately 67,000 guests arrived and departed last month, compared to 1.4 million guests in April 2019. For additional context, on a busy travel day during summer 2019, YYC would have seen the same number of guests in one day as we saw during all of April.
“Our airport has never seen such a steep decline in its history, and we are projecting 65 per cent fewer guests in 2020 compared to last year. We expect YYC will go from a record 18 million passengers in 2019 to approximately 6.4 million in 2020. That’s roughly the same passenger volume as we had in 1996,” said Rob Palmer, vice president and chief financial officer, the Calgary Airport Authority. “After September 11, 2001 YYC experienced a 4 percent decrease in passenger activity, while the 2008 financial crash only resulted in a 2.5 per cent drop. Based on current forecasts a recovery to 2019 passenger volumes could take three to five years, or longer.”
We are pleased to announce that the airport’s eligibility to participate in the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) has resulted in the return of approximately 80 temporarily laid off staff to our payroll. Employees receive the maximum benefit of $847 weekly but are not required to return to work. As previously announced, Authority executive leaders and senior managers took salary reductions and those will remain in effect for the immediate future.
“Airports, airlines and the aviation industry will be forever changed by the pandemic, and we will need financial help from the government to sustain our operations and to help lead in the recovery. While our hope is that we are not forced to increase fees to airlines or guests, without government financial assistance we have few other options,” added Palmer.
The authority is appreciative of the waiving of federal rent to airports until the end of 2020, however we require this relief to be extended for years or even permanently to allow YYC to repay the debt it will incur to continue the safe and secure operation of the airport. Additionally, the authority has determined the government of Canada’s Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) will not be of assistance to YYC as we will be required to exhaust our existing commercial loan arrangements first and then, through LEEFF, fund our current debt payments with new, higher interest-bearing debt.
We continue to support the public health recommendations to limit the spread of COVID-19 by maintaining enhanced cleaning throughout the terminal, access to hand sanitizers and messaging about hand hygiene, reinforcing social distancing recommendations and mask requirements, and assisting federal and provincial agencies as they lead the screening of international arriving guests.
As we support our commercial airline partners as they adjust their operations and schedules, the air cargo business has grown at YYC. In the first three months of 2020, air cargo landings increased by 17 percent and we expect that trend to continue as our air cargo partners meet the rising demand of e-commerce and the movement of critical supplies needed for healthcare providers.
“We thank the frontline healthcare staff and first responders working to keep us all safe. I would also like to recognize all the staff at our airport who are keeping people and essential goods moving safely and securely. Thank you for your commitment,” added Palmer.