Airport to take years to recover, CEO says

The Prince George Airport is expecting it could take years before passenger levels return to pre-COVID-19 levels.

CEO Gordon Duke and airport authority chairman Dean Mason provided an update to city council on Monday night.

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"COVID has hit us very hard. We first talked about this in a managerial meeting in January. We thought we'd have a rough Q1 and be back to normal by June," Duke said. "What we're looking at is three to five years recovery to get back to 2019 passenger levels."

Flights and passenger numbers have dropped by roughly 90 per cent in April and May, he said.

"Our revenue is pretty much nil," he said. "(But) YXS, compared to other Canadian airports, is in pretty good shape. Through the good financial management of the Prince George Airport Authority, the airport is in pretty good financial shape."

By accessing some of the financial aid available from the federal government, the airport hasn't been forced to layoff any staff. With less activity at the airport, staff have been working with Meals on Wheels to support the community and taking part in the #supportPG movement, Duke said.

"The idea is a healthy local economy is going to put more people in airplane seats," he said. 

The local economy will be key to the airport's recovery, he added.

"I think we are going to see a slow, very measured recovery," Duke said. "(But) as tough as it is, I think there will be some very nimble airlines who take advantage of this. I think there is a lot of pent up demand."

Coun. Terri McConnachie said the prospect of a three-to-five year recovery is sobering.

"When you compare the number of flights to one short year ago, it's a big drop," McConnachie said. "We'll get through this. I can't wait to go back to Mexico one day, or other parts of the world."

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