Saturday, 2 May 2020

Canadian airports need more help warns the head of The Canadian Airports Council

Joyce Carter, Canadian Airports Council chair and president and CEO of Halifax Stanfield International Airport, and CAC Vice Chair and Fort McMurray International Airport president and CEO RJ Steenstra, are calling on the Canadian government for more help for the nation's airports. 

Carter speaking at a House of Commons committee meeting, told politicians “We expect to see just 200 travellers today, compared to a daily average of 11,000.”  Overall passenger traffic declined by 90 percent in April across Canada and it is expected to continue at this low level until travel restrictions are lifted, with revenue losses estimated at more than $2 billion.

Ms Carter thanked the government for their early assistance in the crisis by providing ground lease rent relief, but warned that rent relief in itself is not a total solution and more support is required for the short and long term viability of Canada’s airports. 

“Airports have moved quickly to reduce operating expenses – including closing sections of our facilities and cutting wages and staff - but many of our costs are fixed,” she explained. “Costs related to safety, security, and runway maintenance cannot be cut in proportion to reduced traffic.”

The Canadian Airports Council (CAC), a division of Airports Council International-North America, is the voice for Canada’s airports community. Its 53 members represent more than 100 airports, including all of the privately operated National Airports System (NAS) airports and many municipal airports across Canada.

Canada’s locally managed and not for profit airports are essential community assets, supporting 194,000 direct jobs, and contributing $19 billion to the national GDP and $48 billion in direct economic activity. They also remit $6.9 billion in taxes each year to municipal, provincial and federal governments.

While maintaining day-to-day operations, airports are also challenged to meet their capital debt obligations and comply with new and costly regulatory requirements related to runway safety and accessible air travel. “We do not oppose these requirements but wonder how we’ll pay for them based on our current financial situation,” she said.

Carter listed the demands of the CAC:

The first would be to permanently eliminate airport ground lease rent, preserve cash, focus on operations during the recovery, and to pay off incremental debt acquired during the pandemic.
The second recommends loan or bond guarantees and preferred payment designation for airport lenders to relieve the cash pressures caused by current debt obligations and allow airports to continue to borrow at favorable rates.
The final recommendation addresses the needs of rural and remote communities by providing a funding stream for airports with a smaller number of passengers, to cover essential operating expenses so they can continue to connect their communities to much needed goods, workers, medical supplies, and emergency services.

“Pre-COVID, Canada’s airports supported nearly 200,000 jobs, resulting in $13 billion in wages and $7 billion in taxes to all levels of government,” said  Carter. “The health of the entire air transport system is not only essential to serving communities and Canadians through this crisis but also key to our economic recovery once we begin to reopen the economy.”

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