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Pandemic-related decline in air traffic caused Victoria International Airport almost $50 million in revenue

Passenger counts dropped to just 576,000 in 2021 from more than 1.9 million in 2019
The Victoria International Airport lost almost $50 million in revenue over 2020 and 2021. (Black Press Media file photo)

The authority managing Victoria International Airport lost almost $50 million in revenue in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report, which also includes some potentially positive news for Canada’s 10th largest airport based on 2020 figures.

The figure of almost $50 million in lost revenue appears in the report from the Victoria Airport Authority Board of Directors appearing before Central Saanich council Monday.

“2021 was another challenging year for Victoria International Airport as the aviation industry continued to feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on air travel,” it reads. “Continued health measures, border closures, and changing rules for travel continued to impact passenger and revenue volumes.”

The report adds that the authority secured an unspecified amount of debt financing from CIBC to help withstand lost liquidity. “Through cost containment, (Victoria International Airport) is forecast to make a small profit, pre-noncash items,” it reads. “Capital projects were held to a minimum.”

RELATED: Amazon confirmed as Victoria International Airport warehouse tenant

The significant decline in revenue reflects lower passenger volumes. Passenger and aircraft activity typically account for 90 per cent of the revenue. While the airport recorded more than 1.9 million passengers in 2019, passengers dropped to just under 575,000 in 2020. Updates figures for 2021 show a nominal increase to just over 576,000 for 2021.

But the report also points out that passenger numbers picked up “significantly” in the second half of 2021 in a trend expected to continue in 2022.

Developments such as the arrival of ultra-low-cost carrier Flair offering non-stop routes Edmonton, Calgary and Kitchener/Waterloo and the arrival of Swoop offering non-stop routes to Edmonton and Calgary spurred some growth. WestJet, meanwhile, launched non-stop routes to Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Ottawa. International travel to the United States also resumed in late 2021 after the federal government had lifted restrictions in place since March 2020.

2021 also witnessed the completion or start of several new business developments on airport lands, including the completion of Titan Boats’ new manufacturing facility and the Western Canada Marine Spill Response facility. Likely none though generated as much interest as the authority’s deal with York Realty leading to a large warehouse to be operated by Amazon opposite a residential neighbourhood in Sidney.

The building’s initial design (since revised) caused considerable controversy as locals complained about the building’s appearance. The lack of consultation prior to the announcement also ruffled feathers.

RELATED: Blind spot leaves Victoria airport’s new $4.3-million taxiway extension unusable

The report also updates the public on plans to fix a blind spot that has left a $4.3-million taxiway extension un-usable.

“Final construction was coordinated to accommodate CCTV cameras, which will provide (air traffic control) the ability to view the newly built east extension of Taxiway Echo and furthermore allow aircraft access to the full length of Taxiway Echo,” it reads.

Overall, the report speaks of better days ahead for the airport in predicting higher consumer confidence in air travel as vaccination rates rise and travel restrictions ease. This said, it also calls on governments to take a broader perspective in the face of future pandemics.

“The aviation industry manages risk regularly and recognizes that it cannot be eliminated entirely but managed in a way to move people safely,” it reads. “This is a perspective for governments to consider how they can not only protect their citizens from the virus, but how to protect citizens from joblessness too.”

As a generator of close to $1 billion annually in economic activity, a “vital thriving” airport is critical to region’s overall economic vitality, it reads.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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