Winnipeg International Airport released data Tuesday offering a glimpse at the impact COVID-19 is having on Canada’s aviation industry.
While airlines and airports have been pleading for a governmental lifeline to help them weather the pandemic, there has been little concrete data. Winnipeg’s quarterly financial report covering January, February, and March is the first to offer a detail the financial carnage.
The airport reported Tuesday that revenues dropped to $31.4 million in the first three months of the year, compared to $36.2 million during the same period last year. Earnings before interest, depreciation, and taxes dropped from $18 million to $13.4 million.
The airport indicated it had been on pace to set a new passenger record, surpassing the 4.5 million people served in 2019. Then the week of March 3 hit.
The airport said it went from handling an average of 12,500 people a day, to fewer than 150 as the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll.
The impact of the pandemic will likely be much worse in the second quarter, as the full impact of government travel prohibitions is felt.
Data compiled by Western Aviation News show Canada’s major airlines – Air Canada and Westjet – planned just 78 weekly departures from Winnipeg in April. In May, that number is projected to drop even further, to just 38 weekly departures, mostly to Calgary and Toronto, though schedules are subject to large fluctuations.
Airports in Canada are largely funded by fees charged to passengers and airlines.
“Being prepared for disruption has been a priority for Winnipeg Airports Authority, yet no one could have predicted the disproportionate impact of this particular crisis on our industry,” said Barry Rempel, President and CEO of Winnipeg Airports Authority in a statement. “Despite being in a strong financial position, our company has not been immune to these new realities,”
In response, the airport has closed its United States pre-clearance area, turned down thermostats, and powered down kiosks to reduce electrical consumption while promoting physical distancing.
Winnipeg is not the only airport suffering the pandemic’s consequences. Montreal warned April 16 that it was taking extraordinary measures to ensure the survival of its airports, while the chief executive of Fredericton International said she was bracing for a loss this year.
The Atlantic Canada Airports Association said Tuesday its members could lose $118 million in revenues this year, with passenger numbers down between 50 and 70% for the entire year.
“This will have a substantial impact on cash flow and future financial viability of our regions airports with a severe trickle-down effect to our respective communities,” the association warned.
The National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents the country’s largest carriers, said Tuesday that $10 billion worth of aircraft are sitting on the ground, and the costs for airlines are piling up, while revenues have all but disappeared.
“Our members and their employees continue to look forward to the government acting quickly to introduce liquidity measures for the industry,” said Mike McNaney, the NACC’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “This will provide the stability needed for the aviation sector to begin planning with government the policy initiatives needed to drive Canada’s eventual economic recovery, in communities and businesses large and small across the nation, across all segments of the economy and internationally.”
The NACC says its members support more than 630,000 jobs across the country.
Most airlines and airports are taking advantage of federal wage subsidies which will provide more than $600 million to the airlines by June 6.
Air Canada will report its first quarter results next week. Other airlines, such as Westjet and Flair, are privately held and not required to publicly report their financial results.