The Sault Ste. Marie Airport said it has reduced staffing levels by 41 per cent.
In a Jan. 8 press release, the Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corp. cited reduced revenue and increased costs for cleaning and other safety measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for the reduction.
“As the airport operates on a user-pay basis, the severe drop in passenger and aircraft movements has had a major impact on operations. The drops have resulted in a reduction in operating revenues of 63 per cent and capital revenues of 84 per cent," said Terry Bos, president and CEO of the corporation, in the release.
He later confirmed that eight of the nine cuts to staff are permanent.
Bos said the positions that have been reduced are equipment operators and administrative staff.
The corporation employed 22 people pre-pandemic, including five winter seasonal workers. They're now down to 14, including one part-timer.
When asked if this would impact airport operations, Bos stated that it has had an impact on winter operational hours.
The airport CEO also confirmed that despite a reduction in air traffic, air traffic control is currently still operational at the Sault Ste. Marie Airport.
Nav Canada, the company which owns and operates Canada's civil air navigation service, has a level-of-service review being carried out on the operation of the Sault's tower with a decision anticipated by April 2021.
Earlier in December, Bos said that to stay operational, his corporation has been forced to tap into diminishing reserves.
"At some point, tough decisions would have to be made as to operations, as eventually reserves could run dry if this goes on for a long time," Bos at the time.
In December, 2,718 passengers passed through the Sault Ste. Marie Airport.
In 2020, the local airport saw a total of 16,326 passengers come through its doors. August 2020 had the most, with 3,170, and April had the fewest, with only 63.
Air traffic movements have also been greatly reduced due to the pandemic. Currently, Bearskin Airlines is operating up to two flights Sunday and four daily flights Monday to Friday, compared to up to seven daily flights pre-pandemic.
Air Canada Express is offering up to one daily flight between Toronto and Sault Ste. Marie. This continues to be a major decrease in flight options compared to January of 2020 when Air Canada was flying four daily flights.
Porter has temporarily suspended all of its flights until at least Feb. 10.
Sunwing renewed service on Nov. 6 out of Toronto. The government of Canada imposed COVID-19 international travel restrictions back in March and has since extended the order until at least Jan. 21, 2021.
In the month of December alone, Algoma Public Health confirmed three separate incidents of exposure on Air Canada Flights between the Sault and Toronto.
To date, 110 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the Algoma region. Currently, there are 44 active cases in Algoma residents and one case in a non-Algoma resident temporarily in the area.
In Sault Ste. Marie, MI, the Chippewa County Health Department has confirmed 1,525 cases, 968 of which are recovered. The health unit has reported 15 deaths to date, and eight people are currently hospitalized with the virus.