Canada's Community Airports "On The Brink Of Financial Collapse", Warns Association

Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw

Grande Prairie Airport, one of the members of the RCAC.

Canada's regional and community airports are "on the brink of financial collapse" unless the federal government steps in with direct financial support, warns the Regional Community Airports of Canada (RCAC) association.

RCAC is a national organization whose focus is to promote the viability of regional and community airports. It represents over 190 airports nationwide. Members include regional and community airports like Ontario's Greater Sudbury Airport and Timmins Victor M. Power Airport.

RCAC says its members have been hit with severe reductions in revenues and reduced or cancelled air service, leaving them unable to meet operating costs without federal aid. 

Despite a decline in airline passenger traffic since the COVID pandemic began in MAR, they have continued to maintain runways, air terminals, and emergency services without access to financial aid, says the association. They also face massive rate and fee increases in 2021.

"2020 has been a year of deep staffing cuts and reducing services, under the pressure of exceptional revenue loses, to meet fixed operational and safety costs dictated by government regulation along with new pandemic related costs to ensure the safety and confidence of travellers," says Brian Grant, Chair of the RCAC. 

"In 2021, these airports are estimating upwards of 45-60% increases in rates and fees charged to airlines and passengers to continue operations as they exist today. In most cases reserve funds have been depleted and the only possible reductions left are closures of airport infrastructure,"

The association says it is frustrated by the government's focus on the major airlines and major airports in large urban areas, when regional airports also have an important role to play in air connectivity in Canada. 

"For all Canadians outside of our large urban centers, it is regional and local airports that connect the vast regions of our country for essential services, and business and leisure travel," says Grant.

"These smaller airports play a critical role in providing remote access and a quality of life that all Canadians expect. Movement of critical food supplies, emergency health care, essential cargo, emergency evacuation, forest fire fighting services are just a few examples of what regional and community airports deliver in addition to passenger air travel."   

RCAC is calling on the government to: 

  • Ensure regional and community airports' eligibility to all federal COVID assistance programs (i.e. emergency wage subsidy, debit relief and loans programs, and rent subsidy etc.) regardless of governance or ownership model. 
  • Provide a wage subsidy of no less than 75% through Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy for 2021.
  • Provide financial assistance to cover fixed operating costs at 2019 levels.
  • Increase Airport Capital Assistance Program funding to $95 million annually.
  • Adjust the federal contribution limit to the ACAP to no less than 75% of eligible project costs and relax the eligibility requirement of commercial schedule passenger service for current eligible airports for 2021 through 2025.

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