Canada’s largest airport only has nine passenger airlines operating this week, compared to 67 three weeks ago, and it’s asking for more federal assistance amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), which operates and maintains Toronto Pearson under a ground lease arrangement with the Government of Canada, it “continues to work to ensure safe operations and to support the national economy through cargo operations.”
In recent weeks, passenger airlines have begun to use their aircraft to move cargo across Canada and around the world.
Pearson said its airport is dedicated to working with all carriers to keep the flow of goods moving in support of the Canadian economy, including critical goods needed to fight COVID-19.
While the GTAA said it is grateful for the federal government’s decision to address the immediate challenge of 2020 airport rent, the impact “is much deeper and wider.”
And, in support of the Canadian Airports Council (CAC), the GTAA has written to the Canadian government asking for additional measures to assist in recovery of the aviation sector and restore public confidence in Canada’s travel and tourism sectors.
“Like all airports around the world, Toronto Pearson has felt the dramatic and unprecedented impacts of COVID-19—impacts which extend well beyond the airport to the wider aviation, travel and tourism sectors,” said Deborah Flint, President and CEO of the GTAA.
“Passenger numbers at Toronto Pearson continue to drop significantly from an average of 130,000 per day to 5,000 per day. The number of flights has dropped as well, from an average of 1,300 per day to approximately 350 per day.”
The GTAA said the financial impact of the downturn in air travel is significant.
Like to other Canadian airports, the GTAA has taken immediate steps to address the financial impacts, including the reduction of planned 2020 operating costs and capital spending, the closure of parts of the airport’s facilities, and new measures to protect employees and passengers, according to a release by the authority.
Airlines are working to keep vital goods moving around the world, using dedicated cargo aircraft and, more recently, converting passenger aircraft. As Canada’s largest airport and a key facilitator of goods movement, we’re at the ready to help. pic.twitter.com/rgsAm3RnKW
— Toronto Pearson (@TorontoPearson) April 5, 2020
In its letter, the GTAA is asking for short-term as well as long term assistance from the government.
Short-term assistance includes regulatory flexibility and funding, as well as 2021/22 relief from ground lease payments.
Longer-term considerations include: capital project costs and stimulus funding; enhanced revenue tools; and support for the travel and tourism industry.
“The aviation, travel and tourism industries have experienced difficult setbacks before, and we have risen to meet the challenge head on,” said Flint.
“I am confident that by working collaboratively with our government partners, airlines, airport retailers, hoteliers, tourism businesses and attractions, as well as workers, we can begin to identify ways to help restore public confidence in air travel and our airports once again.”