Grande Prairie is the first Canadian airport to drastically reduce service hours in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting Monday and until the end of April, the airport will be open for passengers for only five hours a day, from 3 to 8 p.m.
“While we realize that air travel is a key point of concern for the potential spread of the virus we also understand that this essential service is a necessary form of travel to our region,” the airport said in a statement posted on its website.
As a result of the move, Westjet has reduced its Calgary-Grande Prairie route to one flight daily and suspended service to Edmonton. Air Canada will also operate a lone daily Calgary-Grande Prairie service until the end of April.
The airport will remain open 24 hours for non-passenger flights.
“It is incumbent upon our airport to do our part in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in our region”, said airport Chief Executive Officer Brian Grant. “We recognize our responsibilities to provide essential service to the region and as such the airport continues to remain open as usual 24 hours per day seven days per week to all other users.”
Airports across the country are scrambling to cope with the downturn in traffic due to the pandemic and limit the health risks to employees and passengers. Traffic has fallen off by 70% or more as people heed government warnings to stay home and stop the spread of the pandemic.
In all terminals, restaurants and shops have closed and the ones that remain open have cut their hours. But some airports have gone further. Edmonton International has stopped using gates at the extremities of its terminal building.
Calgary International announced last week it would lay off about 100 staff.
Vancouver has pulled the plug on its multi-billion dollar construction projects and has begun closing piers of its terminal (see map).
Grande Prairie, owned by the city, is the first facility to drastically cut hours.
Canadian airports are facing a loss of $2.2 billion because of the pandemic and are asking for rent breaks and other government support to help weather the storm.