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March 2021 marked one full year of travel restrictions for the Canadian aviation industry, and Winnipeg Richardson International Airport continues to see low passenger traffic as a result. The number of passengers moving through the airport declined by 88.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period the previous year. Passenger traffic at the airport continues to trend downward, with Q1 2021 passenger traffic 25.3 percent lower than the fourth quarter of 2020.
This decline is partly due to the federal government’s decision in February to mandate all
international flights, including previously exempt flights from the U.S. and sun destinations, to land at only four Canadian airports, not including Winnipeg Richardson
International Airport. This requirement removed Winnipeg’s last standing link to the U.S. — direct daily service to Minneapolis St. Paul offered by Delta Air Lines. The provincial government also extended the provincial 14-day self-isolation requirement to anyone entering the province, further suppressing passenger traffic.
This decline in travel negatively impacted WAA’s net earnings as passenger traffic is the airport’s primary revenue driver. WAA’s consolidated revenue for the first quarter of 2021 was $10.9 million, versus $31.3 million for the first quarter in 2020. Earnings before interest, depreciation and taxes were flat in the first quarter of 2021, compared to $13.4 million during the same period the previous year.
In Q1 WAA was forced to secure an additional $100 million bond to sustain the cost of operating YWG due to continued losses and minimal government aid for the airport to date. This step was necessary to protect the airport’s ability to support critical services, including essential travel, medevac flights, cargo and military operations.
“The airport continues 24/7 operations in support of our community, including vaccine shipments, despite revenue losses due to travel restrictions,” said Barry Rempel, President and CEO of Winnipeg Airports Authority. “Our regional economy has benefited from an international airport for close to a century and having that connectivity suspended directly threatens our region’s economic and social recovery. Sustaining operations to ensure Manitoba’s competitive future requires targeted government support and a clear plan to immediately return international service to the market.”
WAA’s diversified business model continues to help offset some of the impacts of reduced air service and low passenger volumes.
In the first quarter of 2021, demand in the cargo sector remained strong. The number of cargo planes landing at YWG jumped 7.5 percent in the first quarter compared to the same period in 2020. Gross takeoff weight, an important metric in measuring air cargo performance, also increased by 4.3 percent compared to the same period the previous year.
Looking ahead, WAA is working closely with all airline partners to showcase the strong potential within the region and help restore air service. Through these efforts, Flair and Swoop are planning to return service to YWG in the second quarter of 2021, and WestJet is further growing its route network to offer direct service to Victoria.
This press release was prepared and distributed by the WAA.