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Greater Sudbury Airport inching toward post-pandemic recovery

2023 airport passenger count of 130,000 is still only half of pre-pandemic volume
Sudbury Airport Community Development Corporation board outgoing chair Dave Paquette, Greater Sudbury Airport Authority CEO Giovanna Verrilli and newly elected Sudbury Airport Community Development Corporation chair Abbas Homayed are pictured at Tom Davies Square following this week’s annual general meeting.

The Greater Sudbury Airport notched positive gains last year, but remains at roughly half of pre-pandemic passenger counts.

Last year’s passenger count was approximately 130,000, which is a 16 per cent jump from the previous year’s 112,000 and far greater than the 54,251-passenger slump recorded during the peak of the pandemic in 2021.

However, it remains well shy of the 245,722 passengers recorded in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

Last year’s on-time performance was a marginal improvement, hitting 79 per cent compared to the previous year’s 78 per cent, both of which on par with pre-pandemic averages.

These and other updates were provided during the Sudbury Airport Community Development Corporation’s recent annual general meeting.

“We recognize the impact the airport has on the community,” CEO Giovanna Verrilli told following the meeting. “Our number one priority is always ensuring we bring back or recover the services that this community lost.

“While we don’t have control over how the airlines do that, we are continuously working with them to make Sudbury a priority in that recovery.”

The COVID-19 pandemic threw airlines and airports through a loop globally, with most planes grounded during its peak and airlines slowly ramping up services ever since.

This resulted in bottlenecking at various larger airports, with trickle-down implications for smaller regional centres. Pre-pandemic, there were six to seven daily flights to Toronto, and now there are two.

That said, Verrilli clarified that Air Canada is using larger planes now, whose equivalent to pre-pandemic flight loads would be four to five aircraft.

“We are working at getting that third flight as soon as possible, with the soonest likely being spring of 2025,” Verrilli said, clarifying that this can still change.

“Airlines are still facing pilot, crew and mechanical constraints that have forced them to change their model and really invest their resources into have-airports.”

With smaller regional airports experiencing longer post-pandemic recoveries than international hubs, a group of Northern Ontario airports drafted an open letter to federal ministers last year requesting additional support. Verrilli was among the letter’s signatories, alongside counterparts in Timmins, North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie.

Prior to that, the federal government provided $4.5 million in Regional Air Transportation Initiative funding to help them weather the pandemic, and an additional $2.6 million toward infrastructure improvements in 2022. Last year, the Greater Sudbury airport received $163,625 in federal funding to purchase new wildlife control fencing.

Last year’s open letter requested minimum federal investment of $1 million per airport annually for the next four years.

Although this funding has not come, Verrilli said her team has joined other regional airports by “continuing to lobby the government for additional support,” including a push to help drive improved airline services in these regions.

While efforts to attract additional airlines to the Greater Sudbury Airport have been ongoing, Verrilli said they’re currently drafting a request for proposals seeking airlines.

Formalizing their push into the market “with some really great, concrete information about our community” will help “continue to put Sudbury on the map in terms of the economic driver for the province that it is,” she added.

Despite their challenges, last year’s operating margin was -$58,000, which Verrilli described as “marginal.” Although a loss of $1.8 million was reported during this week’s annual general meeting, it was predominantly an amortization expense (accounting for asset depreciation over time) on the books in response to a recent boost in infrastructure investment (their assets grew from $24.8 million in 2022 to $31.1 million in 2023).

Also during the meeting, it was announced that Abbas Homayed had been elected chair of the Sudbury Airport Community Development Corporation, taking over from Dave Paquette.

Homayed is director of community relations for Village Media and publisher of

Outside of a line of credit with the City of Greater Sudbury which is being repaid, the Greater Sudbury Airport and its governing Sudbury Airport Community Development Corporation is self-sustaining and does not receive municipal funding.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for