Montreal International Airport has become the first Canadian facility to announce it would take advantage of a federal wage subsidy as revenues plummet due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The airport authority is also taking measures to “ensure the survival of its airport sites.”
“ADM needs to make difficult decisions that will allow it to continue to manage its assets responsibly,” said Philippe Rainville, President and Chief Executive Officer of ADM Aéroports de Montréal. “The assistance received from the federal government through the Emergency Wage Subsidy Program is helping to ensure the maintenance of quality jobs for our workforce and we are extremely grateful for this.”
The airport says it will use the federal wage subsidy to keep employees considered “non-essential” – roughly a third of its staff – on the payroll, instead of laying them off. Essentially, that means the staff won’t have work to do, though they will get the $847 per week paid by the subsidy.
The airport projects it will lose $250 million in revenues this year, from both aeronautical revenues – landing and terminal fees – and non-aeronautical revenues, such as parking and duty-free sales.
To save money, the airport is closing runway 06L-24R, closing its remote Aeroquay and about a third of its gates in the main terminal. The closures mirror a similar move in Vancouver, where entire piers have been emptied to save money.
The airport estimates it will lose more than 80% of its passengers between April and June, compared to record numbers who passed through the terminal in 2019.
Airports in Canada rely heavily on passengers to generate revenues, a real problem in the pandemic when people stay home. Some airports report losing 95% or more of their normal passenger volumes, with only a few hundred people passing through a terminal designed for many times that number.
Due to COVID-19, Montreal is expected to see only 96 weekly domestic departures in April, plus a limited number of international and transborder services. It is one of only four airports in Canada authorized to receive passengers from Europe and Asia.
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Montreal has also halted construction on expanded parking facilities, improvements to the drop off area, and a façade modernization.
It will, however, continue with construction on a station to connect the airport with a new regional rail network.
Airports have been given a break on the rent they pay to Ottawa each year for their land, though Montreal estimates this will only save the facility $38 million, and is “not sufficient to preserve the organization’s sustainability.”
“While no one can speculate on what the future holds, one thing remains unchanged: the remarkable dedication and mobilization of our employees and all industry players will be demonstrated more than ever as soon as airplanes are able to start landing and taking off again from YUL in Montréal,” said Rainville. “The wellbeing of the entire community and our economy depends on it.”
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