General aviation

Airports take more forceful action to deal with COVID pandemic

Tape on the floor shows passengers how far apart they have to be to respect a 2-metre separation at Whitehorse Airport (Twitter/YukonHPW).

Airports across the country are stepping up measures to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. All have increased cleaning, while some are going as far as banning access to their terminal except for passengers, employees, and crews.

“Until further notice, only travellers, flight crews and airport staff are permitted inside #YZF airport,” read a tweet from Yellowknife Airport late Monday afternoon. “If you are dropping someone off or picking someone up, do not enter the terminal. Thank you for your cooperation.”

Yellowknife is one of a handful of airports across the country – along with Thunder Bay, Charlottetown, and Halifax – to offer free short-term parking to discourage anyone coming to pick up a passenger from coming inside the terminal building.

“Stay in your car if you are picking someone up,” said a tweet from the Charlottetown airport.

While altering their facilities and procedures to keep people apart and respect social distancing, airports are also having to manage an increase in cleaning costs while their passenger revenues have tanked.

The Canadian Airports Council – an umbrella group for the country’s busiest airports – estimates facilities will lose up to $2.2 billion this year as a result of the pandemic. In 2018, those same facilities took in a little more than $4 billion overall. And as dire as that prediction is, it may not capture the full magnitude of the crisis.

Some airports, such as Hamilton, are signalling cuts to come as fewer passengers means they have less revenue to pay staff and make their facilities work.

“Over the next week, we will be reaching out to certain partners to understand the difficult decisions that will be made as we plan for the cessation of international passenger travel, the expected decline in domestic passenger service and expected customer demand during this period of uncertainty,” said Hamilton President and Chief Executive Officer Cathie Puckering in a statement.

“While we are open for business, we will continue to work with our passenger airline partners to repatriate those passengers who are still abroad, while continuing to support domestic air travel and our vital cargo operation,” she wrote.

The CAC reported other airports have stopped major projects to preserve whatever cash they can.