A recent $27 million announcement by the provincial government to help maintain or restart some transportation services is getting a closer look by the Comox Valley Airport.
On March 9, the government announced that bus services and airports can begin applying to the fund – as part of the province’s COVID-19 business recovery fund – to keep them going until travel restrictions are eased later this year.
Transportation Minister Rob Flemming said bus services have a fund of $10.7 million available while regional airports can apply to a $16.5 million fund to cover operating costs.
“We will be reviewing the application, at this stage is just an expression of interest, which we will complete to start the process, but given the number of airports this fund will be open to, it remains to be seen if YQQ will qualify, and if so, to what extent,” explained Erin Neely, market development manager of the Comox Valley Airport.
She added they are grateful to the provincial government for the announcement of funds and support to the vital transportation sector.
Heather Bell, chair of the B.C. Aviation Council, said regional airports generate almost all of their revenue by user fees, and have been among the hardest-hit industries due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. But they still need to meet regulations and maintain their runways, fire safety response and terminal services for medical and other essential travel.
Bell said airports need to be ready for this summer when travel restrictions are likely to be eased, because when travel is allowed, “it’s not going to come back as a flood, it’s going to come back as a tsunami.”
Neely added like most Canadian airports, YQQ is waiting on the federal government to provide a plan to safely restart air travel – when it’s safe to do so – along with a number of other government-led actions to support the industry, their airline partners and the communities they serve.
In January, WestJet Airlines announced a flight reduction across their network – approximately 30 per cent of its previously planned March capacity from the schedule, a more than 80 per cent reduction year over year.
While there are fewer flights in and out of YQQ, Neely noted earlier this year the airport remains fully operational to support essential travel and they are ready to increase capacity when conditions and government regulations allow.
-With files from Tom Fletcher