Prince George Airport Authority sees growth after pandemic lows

YXS cautiously optimistic

The Prince George Airport Authority has been hit hard during the pandemic, seeing a decrease of nearly 300,000 passengers in 2020 compared to 2019.

“COVID got in the way, and we went from being progressive and focusing on growth to survival,” board chair Don Zurowski told prince George city council. “We did cost containment exercise, lost a tremendous number of flights that were coming in to the city, and we just had to conduct ourselves differently.”

In 2019 there were 496,714 passengers that came through YXS, but that number dropped to 176,994 in 2020.

Aircraft movements overall saw a decrease of 16.10 per cent and scheduled commercial aircraft movements saw a decrease of 30.28 per cent from 2019.

PGAA hasn’t seen numbers so low since the early 2000s.

The massive effect of the pandemic is also reflected in the airport’s financial statements.

In 2020 the airport had a negative operating surplus of -$1,112,489 whereas in 2019 it saw a surplus of $1,456,210.

In 2019 the airport saw a revenue of $9,268,971 where as that dropped to 5,371,371 in 2020. However, expenses also decreased during the pandemic, in 2020 expenses fell from $7,812,761 to $6,483,860.

“The impact of the pandemic on our bottom line has been significant,” said CEO Gordon Duke. “I will say that our airport has been insulated from the full impact of the COVID pandemic because of timing. We haven’t recently taken on huge chunks of debt like other airports.”

He said that workplace essential travel has also kept YXS from taking on the full impact of pandemic.

“Looking at this year to date in terms of passenger numbers we have seen some encouraging growth,” said Duke. “When I look at the numbers that just came in for August we were just under 70 per cent for where we were pre-COVID.”

He said he’s seen successive months of improvement which is an encouraging sign but the next six months will be “a telling time” for the industry.

“The big keys will be opening up of transborder leisure travel and those international destinations we all like so we are cautiously optimistic of the next six months and we as an organization are going to keep building that resilience we need to have in place.”

Zurowski said the increase in the use of Zoom for meetings and conferences has also decreased the number of business travelers coming through the airport.

“We need that commercial air travel to get the flights back in the air. If there’s not bums in seats there’s not airplanes on the tarmac and the reverse applies, too.”

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