Credited as part of post-COVID recovery efforts at the Greater Sudbury Airport, the Fly Sudbury Café & Lounge celebrated its grand opening on Aug. 24.
“The aviation industry is recovering quite slowly, in particular with the regional markets, but parallel to working to recover this industry, we also have to focus on the passenger experience,” Greater Sudbury Airport CEO Giovanna Verrilli said during the day’s ribbon-cutting event.
The airport has been without a restaurant since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and it has been “the most requested service” airport staff have fielded from the public, she added.
“We’re excited to continue working on the passenger experience and improving this airport for everyone that visits our facility.”
The restaurant had a soft launch last month, with Thursday’s grand opening signalling the start of its full operations.
The Fly Sudbury Café & Lounge is owned and operated by friends Ranjodh Singh and Lakhvir Singh Mann, two immigrants from India with restaurant experience.
Singh arrived in Sudbury from India in 2013, and owns Popular Pizza in downtown Sudbury.
Mann manages the KFC/Taco Bell restaurant in the New Sudbury Centre.
“We were looking for something new. We wanted to start something different outside of the franchise business,” Mann told Sudbury.com, adding that independent restaurants carry greater freedom. “Here, you can put anything (on the menu); you can use your imagination and do anything.”
Their menu draws from the duo’s Indian roots, and Mann said they’ve tried to “blend everything,” including Mexican cuisine, into their offerings.
“If we have the ingredients to make it, we can,” Mann said, adding that their menu will continue to evolve as customers make requests.
“We cook most everything at home, so we have a lot of experience cooking ourselves,” Singh said.
The restaurant’s menu currently includes sandwiches, all-day breakfasts and specials such as butter chicken.
The restaurant owners are in the process of applying for a liquor licence, and the restaurant is open seven days per week, from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Hours will be extended in the event of flight interruptions.
The restaurant space was previously filled by Clear Sky Bistro, which Christopher Pollesel, the airport's passenger experience and customer engagement manager, told Sudbury.com closed at the start of the pandemic, during the first round of lockdown restrictions.
“This is just the beginning of the great things to come for our airport,” Verrilli said, adding that with regional airports recovering from the pandemic more slowly than larger airports, they want their facility “in top shape when the recovery rebounds.”
Sudbury Airport Community Development Corporation chair David Paquette said the café and lounge’s opening is a sign of the positive momentum building as recovery efforts are underway.
Last year’s passenger count was approximately 112,000, which is roughly double the count recorded in 2021, but still half their pre-pandemic annual volume.
Pollesel said they’re on track to bump this figure up slightly to more than 130,000 this year, but that a full pandemic recovery would remain at least a couple of years away.
“It’s been a very slow recovery for airports,” he said. “We are seeing a positive increase, but the entire aviation industry is taking time to recover.”
Earlier this year, Greater Sudbury Airport joined other Northern Ontario airports in advocating for federal investment to help regional airports recover from the pandemic.
In addition to the Fly Sudbury Café & Lounge, Greater Sudbury airport also announced a partnership with local transportation company Aaron Group to offer a 10 per cent discounted rate for passengers arriving or departing the airport. They are also offering passengers their new black car service, Aaron Luxe.
An automated kiosk is being trialled at the airport for passengers to arrange ground transportation, and plans for a permanent kiosk are being finalized.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.