Ever since Air Canada cancelled all its flights into the West Kootenay Regional Airport due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the airport has been struggling financially.
As of the end of June, the airport has seen a revenue loss of $414,000 and the city projects losses may reach as much as $1 million this year if commercial flights do not resume.
But a recent report submitted to Castlegar city council by airport manager Patrick Gauvreau shows that even though Air Canada may account for the bulk of the facility’s revenue, it doesn’t account for the bulk of the airport’s traffic.
Gauvreau’s report covered airport movements for April, May and June. A movement is considered a landing, take-off or simulated approach to the runway.
In April there were 294 movements, in May there were 746 and in June there were 540.
Gauvreau says most movements are from the general aviation community, including private planes and flight schools. There are also flights from the Southeast Fire Centre and medevac flights.
There were seven medevac flights in April, 11 in May and 14 in June.
The City of Castlegar collects fees from airplanes that use the airport based on the size of the plane. A small private jet or turbo prop plane may pay as little as $22 to land at the airport. However, piston engine aircraft are exempt from the fees.
Fees are also collected for parking aircraft, again based on size. Those fees range from $6 to $150 a day.
Revenues collected at the airport during April, May and June from things like landing fees, terminal fees, parking fees, departure fees and commissions totalled $55,258. During the same period in 2019, revenue was $206,560, for a decrease of $151,302. Most of the airport’s remaining revenue losses for the year are connected to the suspension of commercial flights.
But at the last city council meeting, Castlegar CAO Chris Barlow explained there are a number of spin-off revenues related to airplane traffic to consider such as fuel purchases, restaurant meals, hotels and purchases at local businesses.
The city has reduced service levels at the airport in an effort to cut costs, including negotiating a 25-per-cent cost reduction with the main airport contractor to reduce the scope of work to cover just base requirements.
The city has also appealed to the provincial and federal governments for emergency funding in consideration of the regional health and fire services the city provides through the airport.