More turbulence for Winnipeg Airports Authority

A severe decline in passenger volumes due to COVID-19 restrictions continues to wreak havoc on the Winnipeg Airports Authority.

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

On Monday, the company released yet another dour outlook with its first-quarter earnings report for 2021. Revenue for Canada’s seventh-busiest airport is a shell of what it was only in early 2020, let alone previous years.

The airport authority’s consolidated revenue for the first quarter is $10.9 million, versus $31.3 million for the first quarter in 2020. Earnings before interest, depreciation and taxes have been flat this quarter, compared to $13.4 million during the same period the previous year.

All of that is mostly to blame on plunging passenger traffic — which typically represents about 90 per cent of any Canadian airport’s revenue.

The number of passengers moving through Winnipeg declined by 88.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to last year. And that trend appears to only be moving downward, with first-quarter traffic 25.3 per cent lower than the fourth quarter of 2020.

This decline is partly due to the federal government’s decision in February to mandate all international flights to land at only four Canadian airports which did not include Winnipeg’s airport, said CEO and president Barry Rempel.

The new requirements removed Winnipeg’s last standing link to the US (direct daily service to Minneapolis-St. Paul offered by Delta Air Lines) and took away previously exempt flights from sun destinations. The provincial government also extended Manitoba’s 14-day self-isolation requirement to anyone entering the province, further suppressing passenger traffic, said Rempel.

In the first quarter, the airports authority has been “forced” to secure an additional $100-million bond to sustain the cost of operating due to continued losses and minimal government aid to date.

“Our regional economy has benefited from an international airport for close to a century and having that connectivity suspended directly threatens our region’s economic and social recovery,” said Rempel.

“Sustaining operations to ensure Manitoba’s competitive future requires targeted government support and a clear plan to immediately return international service to the market.”