Lyndsay Aelick, CTV News Northern Ontario Videojournalist | Sunday, May 2, 2021
SUDBURY — The travel industry has been hit hard by the pandemic but despite a decline in passenger traffic and no government funding coming to the airport in Sudbury, staff have kept its doors open.
“We are governed by Transport Canada regulations so in other words we can’t just close the doors and go home we have to keep the airport ready to go,” says Todd Tripp, Greater Sudbury Airport CEO.
Passenger numbers in the first quarter of 2021 are down 90 per cent at the airport but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anyone coming or going.
Tripp says while numbers are down in terms of the passenger traffic side it has seen an increase in general aviation traffic
“We believe most of it is essential. There’s still a lot of mining traffic going back and forth with the shift change and so forth. We have a lot of nurses and doctors coming and going from southern Ontario coming back up to Sudbury. We have seen a very large increase in traffic coming in on the MedEvac service,” says Tripp
The airport has not received any financial relief during the pandemic, according to Tripp, any dollars that the airport has brought in have gone directly towards expenses. In the fall economic statement, Tripp says over 24 million dollars from FEDNOR was to be divided amongst airports in the north, however, he is still waiting for that funding application to be approved.
“We have not received a government cent at all for anything and I must highlight we are not sponsored by the City of Greater Sudbury. They do loan us money. They act as our bank,” he said.
Recently the airport received approval from city council to have its line of credit increased by 5 million dollars bringing its total to $12.5 million.
“We are a strong economic driver for the City of Greater Sudbury and region and we want to remain so. So in order to do so I wanted to make sure that we had the back stopping of the dollars if we needed to make whatever changes the government is going to ask of us,” says Tripp.
The dollars were originally allocated for improvements and expansion projects, however, Tripp believes the money will need to be used to prepare for an influx of travel once it’s safe to do so.
“If you’d have asked me 6 to 8 months ago I would have said that travel is not going to happen for years. I’ve changed that a little bit in that I think there is going to be some requirements to be ready to go for the leisure travel.”
Tripp says the airport tried to cut costs as much as possible over the last year and a half and luckily no employees have had to be laid off up to this point, but he says sadly it’s getting to a point where he is unsure of what to do next, which is why government dollars are so needed.