(Sasha Sefter - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

Financial support for Quesnel airport on city council agenda

In its report RCAC emphasizes the vital role regional airports provide

A report from the Regional Community Airports of Canada calling for immediate COVID-19 financial support for regional airport operators is set to be reviewed by Quesnel City Council and the Cariboo Regional District next week.

At its most recent North Cariboo Joint Planning Committee meeting May 19, Jeff Norburn, director of community services with the City of Quesnel, recommended the City and the CRD consider sending letters of support to help secure funding for the Quesnel Regional Airport.

“RCAC is lobbying on behalf of all regional airports across the country to get the message to senior levels of government, particularly at the federal level, that small, regional airports have been hit hard by the travel restrictions imposed by COVID-19,” Norburn told the Observer.

“A small airport like Quesnel, in addition to our airline carrier Central Mountain Air, is critical for the economy, and for the community.”

Norburn said the Quesnel Regional Airport is currently facing a large operating deficit, and noted commercial passenger traffic accounts for roughly 75 per cent of its revenue.

READ MORE: Quesnel Airport’s opening hours changing as Central Mountain Air reduces flights

“That’s a pretty substantial blow for regional airports to absorb,” he said. “And I think Quesnel is representative of what’s happening across the country in small, regional airports and it’s creating a situation — depending how long this goes — that we could start to see some small, regional airports can’t continue to operate because they’ve lost their primary source of revenue and that could have devastating impacts for small, regional communities.”

The RCAC is a national organization representing regional airports in Canada with a membership that includes 55 regional airports, including the Quesnel Regional Airport, and six provincial airport associations.

In its report RCAC emphasizes the vital role regional airports provide to the social, economic and medical connectivity of rural communities across Canada and how the COVID-19 pandemic could bankrupt and close some airports.

Central Mountain Air’s service has been suspended completely since April 9, resulting in a loss of an estimated $26,500 per month which, combined with a decrease in fuel sale profits is expected to result in a loss of revenue of up to $30,000 per month.

“One of the big problems is the operating costs of the airport doesn’t really change,” Norburn said. “That’s because you’ve still got to maintain the same standards at the airport.”

The RCAC is requesting an immediate support program for regional airports to replace lost revenues (up to 75 per cent of revenue through to Dec. 31, 2020), and that airports be eligible for zero interest medium term loans, and that Airport Capital Assistance Program (ACAP) funding be increased.

READ MORE: Central Mountain Air suspending flights, effective April 11

The RCAC is also suggesting airports who receive grants agree to reduce airport fees as a condition of the grant in order to stimulate air travel.

RCAC’s report will be reviewed during the Tuesday, May 26 Quesnel City council meeting.

“Council hasn’t made a decision yet but we’d like to try to encourage the City to be a part of that voice,” Norburn said.

“Make sure government knows the small, regional airports are hurting. While there’s been support for a variety of things, so far, small, regional airports have not been able to tap into any of that and are hurting badly.”



greg.sabatino@wltribune.com

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