Devastating 2020 for Winnipeg airport as passenger numbers hit near 50-year low

The Winnipeg Airports Authority is reflecting on a devastating 2020 in which passenger numbers dropped to a near 50-year low.

The organization held its annual meeting Thursday and President and CEO Barry Rempel says 1.3 million passengers travelled through the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport last year, the lowest total since 1971 and a far cry from the 4.5 million passengers in 2019.

He says the airport lost about 43 million dollars in 2020.

“The impact of the pandemic will be generational,” Rempel said. “It will take years to rebuild routes and get back to a place where we can think about facilities required by future growth.”

READ MORE: Airport sees 93 per cent drop in passengers during holiday season

Rempel says the return of travel can only happen if one of two things happens.

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‘We need vaccines in people’s arms or specific sector support,” Rempel said.

The WAA is asking the feds to eliminate airport rent requirements until revenue is recovered and also asking for the immediate return of international flights to Winnipeg. Since February, the flights have only been able to land at four airports in Canada in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver.

“If it’s safe for a Manitoban to arrive in Toronto, then it’s safe for a Manitoban to arrive in Winnipeg,” Rempel said. “We have the same facilities, protocols, and access to programs. That needs to be returned.”

There is still optimism for 2021 to end on a good note, despite a rough start to the year with numbers remaining low.

‘We thought we saw some light until the third wave of the pandemic took hold,” Rempel said.

“We’re still hopeful we will see, certainly not a return to the kind of level we saw in 2019, but we’re hopeful we’ll see a return in the last four months particularly.”

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