Battling the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport

What do you do when 95 per cent of your customers leave, but nearly all of your costs stay the same?

This is the new reality for Winnipeg Richardson International Airport as it continues to operate to support essential travel, move valuable goods, receive medical flights and serve the neighbouring Canadian Forces Base.

Typically bustling with 12,300 passengers a day, the airport saw an average of 265 passengers a day in the last week of March with numbers continuing to drop. The International Air Transport Association estimates two million flights will be cancelled globally from now until June 30. For Canada, this translates into an estimated 75 per cent drop in passenger traffic, as predicted by the Canadian Airports Council. This figure remains approximately the same for Winnipeg Richardson International Airport for the second quarter.

While public safety remains the top priority for Winnipeg Airports Authority, airport revenue comes from people using the airport. User fees, landing charges, concession and retail sales and parking revenues fund the cost of operating Winnipeg Richardson International Airport. With a 95 per cent drop in passenger traffic and only six of 26 concessions still open, airport revenues have also been significantly reduced.

Without the option of closing the doors and shutting down to save costs, what can be done? Here are a few of the things WAA is doing to reduce operating costs while keeping the community connected:

  • Turning down thermostats, such as on bridges not in use
  • Closing off low-use areas in the terminal to strategize resources
  • Powering down alternating airline check-in kiosks and service counters
  • Shutting off power to plugs in the parkade to reduce electrical costs
  • Turning off non-essential lighting and cycling lights in other key areas
  • Closing off select washrooms to minimize water and electricity consumption
  • Closing select screening lanes and escalators to power down large machinery
  • The baggage handling belt is organically falling into sleep mode due to low demand

These measures are helping but Canadian airports are also advocating for support from the government during this critical time. On March 30, the federal government announced its first step towards backing the air transportation sector by waiving ground lease rents for 21 airport authorities, including WAA, until the end of the year. 

During this time of disruption, WAA will continue to leverage all opportunities, both large and small, to keep Winnipeg Richardson International Airport sustainable and equipped to best serve the community both now and when travel returns in the future.