An association representing over 190 smaller airports across the country is calling on government aid as they face financial collapse. The Regional Community Airports of Canada (RCAC) says that the public’s attention is focussed on the major airports and both national and regional airlines, with little attention paid to the needs of smaller airports.
“For all Canadians outside of our large urban centres it is regional and local airports that connect the vast regions of our country for essential services, and business and leisure travel,” said RCAC chairperson Brian Grant. “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.”
When the pandemic hit in March and air travel virtually ceased, seeing only a partial recovery since then, community airports still needed to maintain their runways and taxiways, emergency services and air terminals. Without the revenue from commercial operations, the airports cannot continue without financial aid.
“In most cases reserve funds have been depleted and the only possible reductions left are closures of airport infrastructure,” added Grant.
Recommendations the organization is calling for include:
- Ensure regional and community airports’ eligibility for 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;
- Stabilize the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) for airports to not less than 75 percent for 2021 to protect the employment capabilities of these airports for employees;
- Provide financial assistance to cover fixed operating costs at 2019 levels to eliminate deficits and avoid rates and fees increases in order to bolster airline and travel activity;
- Increase Airport Capital Assistance Program (ACAP) funding to $95 million annually (an industry request prior to the COVID-19 pandemic dating back more than two years); and
- Adjust the federal contribution limit to the ACAP to not less than 75 percent of eligible project costs and relax the eligibility requirement of commercial schedule passenger service for current eligible airports for 2021 through 2025, to ensure the protection and maintenance of essential infrastructure and equipment during the post-pandemic recovery period.