Airport leadership says they don’t need handouts, but need to get passengers back in the building
Heidi Atter · CBC News · Jun 16, 2021
The Regina airport has lost millions during the pandemic, but the CEO says he remains optimistic for the future.
The city’s executive committee discussed the airport on Wednesday morning. The committee has given the airport a five-year property tax exemption with a few conditions. The airport requested more time on one condition.
The airport was supposed to have found an airline service to provide daily flights to the United States by Jan. 1, 2021. However, due to the pandemic, that hasn’t happened. The committee voted to give the airport until the end of 2022 for the goal.
“The pandemic has been devastating,” CEO James Bogusz told the committee.”It’s been very, very challenging for those airlines to make a business here in the Queen City. This is not unique, by the way, to our city. This is an issue right across Canada.”
In an update on finances, Bogusz told the committee the airport relies on “seats,” and that seat count dropped dramatically during the pandemic. He said the airport currently has about 10 per cent of regular passenger volume, with seats selling at 30 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
Bogusz said the airport has lost $13 million in total.
However, Bogusz said there’s a lot of positivity and good news lately. Flair Airlines has returned to Regina, Air Canada is offering new routes between Regina and Montreal, and Westjet added a new route between Regina and Kelowna.
Bogusz said the airport has been able to maintain a very low cost structure through the reduction of staff, capital programs and operating budgets.
“We know that the future is still a little uncertain, but we know it’s got a much brighter end that we saw last year,” Bogusz said.
The airport is using the federal emergency wage subsidy. It didn’t receive anything from the federal budget in April, but expects to receive $2.6 million in federal aid this fall. Bogusz said that should cover about two months of expenses.
“This will be helpful, what we really need is passengers. We need our service, not government handouts,” Bogusz said. “But I hope we’re all agreeing that the future is brighter and hopefully we can start self-funding again.”
The airport is still committed to helping fund an additional bus service from Regina’s downtown to the airport, Bogusz said. The project was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We very much desire it, but we also want it to be successful for both parties. And right now, we’re still, sadly, in the very low passenger volumes today,” he said. “Hopefully we can revisit that in the near future as we see a recovery.”