After being devastated by COVID-19, Alberta’s major airports have high hopes about the recovery

From CBC News – link to source story

An analysis of publicly available data shows the devastating impact of the pandemic

Nicholas Frew · CBC News · Posted: August 02, 2021

Pre-pandemic, the Edmonton and Calgary airports were operating at record or near-record capacity. It could take years before the airports get back to those levels again. (CBC)

Alberta’s two largest airports are seeing signs that they can prepare their recovery for takeoff in the wake of a worldwide pandemic that almost grounded the industry.

Airports have hemorrhaged money ever since restrictions to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus brought air travel to a near-halt in early 2020. 

“Any word less than ‘devastating’ is [inappropriate] for the impact on the aviation industry,” said Barry Prentice, University of Manitoba professor who researches transportation economics. 

“[Airports] are particularly hard-hit because literally all the revenues are associated with passenger movements and all the costs are essentially fixed.”

CBC News analyzed publicly available passenger data for the Calgary and Edmonton airports from 2014 to June 2021 — the most recent available — as well as airport revenue and net income reported in annual reports from fiscal 2014 through 2020.

The analysis shows how significantly the COVID-19 pandemic struck Alberta’s airports.

Before COVID-19

Pre-pandemic, the Edmonton and Calgary airports were operating at or near record capacity.

The Edmonton International Airport (EIA) reported well over 7.6 million terminal passengers in 2019, down slightly from a peak in 2018. The Calgary International Airport saw nearly 18 million passengers in 2019.

Calgary reported nearly $432 million in revenue that fiscal year and made significant gains on its net loss. Edmonton made about $231.7 million in revenue and posted its first net gain since at least 2014, according to annual reports.

About two-thirds of that revenue was generated by passengers through airport improvement fees, concessions and parking.

The airports were operating at similar levels through the first two months of 2020. But traffic dropped by about 40 per cent that March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the province launched its tough health restrictions in April and May, passenger traffic in both airports plunged to about five per cent of what it had been in January and February.

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