Chris Mayne should know when he says it will take a year or two for things to get back to "normal" when it comes to the travel business.
Mayne owns a local travel agency and is a board member and city councillor on the North Bay Jack Garland Airport Board.
He says currently business is down about 90 per cent at Jack Garland Airport. That comes from Air Canada pulling out its regional flights from North Bay back in the early summer plus Sunwing not renewing its contract to offer flights to the Dominican Republic and Cuba from the local airport.
"There is still some service coming out of the airport such as charters, leased aircraft, private operated, but the airport is down significantly from its normal activity so without the passenger traffic we would normally get from Air Canada, that has severely impacted revenues," said Mayne.
Mayne notes the board is forecasting an $800,000 shortfall which, he says will be supported by the City of North Bay through its budget.
"We are trying to minimize any operating costs that we can," admitted Mayne.
"To keep the airport open you still have to plow the runways, keep the lights on. There are still minimum service levels that you have to maintain even though your business is down, but we don't want to close the airport because it would be a multi-year process to reapply, recertify, reopen the airport, so we are still looking to see a return to service at some point in the next year or so."
Mayne adds that the federal government has been trying to negotiate with airlines to bring back scheduled service to communities like North Bay, but the numbers have to make sense.
"Air Canada, who was the original passenger service – and even the newer operators like Bearskin or anyone who might step in to take over their service – what they are also looking for is the minimum level of passenger ridership and given the current COVID-19 conditions and most businesses are still very quiet," said Mayne.
"Even for someone resuming service out of North Bay, right now it is unlikely the passenger volumes would be there to justify almost any level of service at this point."
The board hopes within the next six to nine months those conditions will improve.
"The airport is certainly looking and would like to see Air Canada return to service, but in the meantime, there have been some very detailed discussions with other airlines that could partner with Air Canada and Toronto Airport. But they are looking for a stronger business economy to return as well," said Mayne.