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Sault airport’s passenger levels remain at record lows

President-CEO calls for government intervention to help in airport recovery
20200301-Sault Ste. Marie Airport, winter, stock-DT-02
Sault Ste. Marie Airport terminal (File photo, Darren Taylor/SooToday)

Passenger levels at the Sault Ste. Marie Airport remain at record lows as the facility continues to grapple with travel restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

In January, passenger traffic was down 89.3 per cent from the previous year and down 89.8 per cent for the fiscal year between April 2020 and January 2021.

Air traffic movements have also seen a drastic reduction from the previous year's levels.

In November, there were 3,684 aircraft movements, a reduction of 18.7 per cent from the previous year.

That’s an improvement from April, however, when traffic was at its lowest, with 575 movements, a decrease of 91 per cent from April 2019.

Currently, Bearskin Airlines is operating up to two flights Sunday and up to four daily flights Monday to Friday, while Air Canada Express is offering up to one daily flight.

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The airport said that’s a major decrease in flight options compared to February last year, when Air Canada was flying four daily flights, Porter Airlines had up to two daily flights, Bearskin was flying up to seven daily flights, and Sunwing was providing once-weekly service.

Porter ceased its operations last March and is not expected to resume passenger flights until March 29.

Sunwing Airlines has additionally suspended flights to sun destinations.

“A strong system of airports is essential to supporting recovery from COVID-19 for our travel and tourism sector, as well as our trade-based regional and national economies,” Terry Bos, the Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corp.'s president and CEO, said in a Feb. 9 news release.

“Canada’s airports and our air sector partners want to play a leading role in this recovery but may not be able to effectively do so without intervention by government.”

The Sault airport is one of only two in Canada to function independently of municipal or regional oversight.

Owned and operated by a private, not-for-profit corporation, the airport self-funds all operational and capital costs through the collection of user fees, leases, and customer-pay items such as car parking and airport improvement fees.