While commercial flights are set to return to Quesnel for the first time on June 28, the city won’t be receiving as much per flight compared to pre-pandemic times.
City council agreed to waive passenger landing fees for Central Mountain Air (CMA) until December.
According to a report written by the city’s director of community services, Jeff Norburn, the lack of flights from CMA has resulted in a loss of revenue of $30,000 per month.
Council directed staff in January to negotiate waiving passenger fees with an air carrier to encourage a return of flights to Quesnel before CMA announced their return.
Norburn said staff are optimistic a grant application to the federal government’s Regional Airport Transportation Initiative (RATI) program will be successful.
“We are confident our application will be viewed favourably, however at this time we do not have confirmation whether or not the funding, in whole or in part, will be approved,” he said.
The RATI money is planned to cover the return of janitorial services, COVID-19 building upgrades and recalling a laid-off employee. Council allocated $360,000 in provincial safe restart grant funds to offset lost airport revenue and did not budget to receive any passenger fees in 2021.
Councillor Mitch Vik wanted to know if CMA was receiving any other subsidies from government.
“All they can get through RATI is a loan,” Norburn said. “So they can’t get actual grant funding. I don’t want to speak on behalf of the federal government, but I think the intent is to get funding to airport operators to attract airline carriers, rather than give money directly to airline carriers.”
Mayor Bob Simpson wanted to make it clear while under most circumstances the Quesnel Community Charter prevents council from subsidizing businesses, there are exceptions.
“In this case, it’s tied to trying to provide a community service,” Director of Corporate and Financial Services Kari Bolton said. “We’re trying to enable an essential service; travel during a crisis. It really is a different circumstance.”
Flights were first stopped out of Quesnel in April of 2020 due to COVID-19.
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