Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is proceeding with issuing layoff notices Monday, after initially offering voluntary departure packages to all of its employees over the past two weeks.
The airport says it will be laying off 25% of its approximate 550-person workforce, with both management and unionized employees affected. They work in areas such as airport operations, finance, engineering, human resources, and administration.
YVR’s traffic saw remarkable year-over-year growth over the last few years, topped off by the record 26.4 million passengers in 2019. The forecast for continued growth prompted the airport to expand its workforce, but these staffing levels are no longer financially feasible given the expected steep drop in passenger numbers for the forthcoming years.
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Currently, the airport states it is now tracking between eight and 15 million passengers per year for the next three years, which is forcing the airport to reorganize its workforce to align with current and forecasted operational requirements.
The low end of this projected forecast is equivalent to YVR’s pre-1992 levels, while the high end was reached by the airport in 1998.
In early April, YVR was seeing just 3,000 passengers per day — down from the normal volumes of 78,000 per day. The remaining volumes are largely from the trickle in domestic passenger traffic, while international traffic is almost non-existent.
According to global air travel data firm OAG, the falling capacity changes to the commercial airline industry bottomed out last week, the 17th week of the pandemic. There was a 2% increase in weekly global capacity with 29.8 million scheduled seats — a 600,000-seat increase over the previous week, with growth in eight of the 17 regional markets analyzed.
But this all amounts to about 80 million fewer seats than what was operated in the same week in 2019.
“Today, we began the difficult but necessary process of issuing layoff notices to many of our valued employees. Our current workforce is sized to operate a 26 million passenger airport, and that is simply no longer sustainable,” reads a statement by Vancouver Airport Authority.
“We are confident the steps being taken today will ensure we have the appropriate team in place to operate YVR now and into the future as we continue to serve our local community, industry and British Columbians.”
In 2018, YVR had an annual operational budget of $379 million, with $60.5 million going towards salaries, wages, and benefits. During the same fiscal year, it saw revenues totalling $565.1 million, with $48.1 million from airline landing fees, $95.1 million from airline terminal fees, $143.5 million from concessions, $172.1 million from airport improvement fees, $37.9 million from car parking, and $38.7 million from rentals.
YVR’s operations support 250 airport-supporting businesses on Sea Island, which employ 26,000 people. The airport estimates about half of this workforce will be laid off.