Stanfield Airport sees significant financial losses again in 2021

It was another turbulent year for passenger and flight activity at Halifax
Stanfield, resulting in significant financial losses for Halifax International Airport Authority

For the second year in a row, passenger activity at Halifax Stanfield was down roughly
75 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels. In 2021, 1.1 million passengers travelled
through Halifax Stanfield, compared to 2019 when the airport welcomed 4.2 million

“The past two years have been the most challenging years in Halifax Stanfield’s history,”
said Joyce Carter, President and CEO, HIAA. “We anticipate that it will take several
more years for the airport to fully recover from the effects of COVID-19, and the
recovery path will have many ups and downs along the way.”

During the first half of 2021, it was not unusual to see escalators turned off, empty
hallways and parking lots, and more concessions closed than open when visiting the
airport. When the Government of Nova Scotia eased travel restrictions in June in
response to increasing vaccination rates, traveller confidence rose, and airport activity
began to pick up over the summer and fall. The return of air service created a sense of
optimism for the community as Nova Scotians began to reconnect with family and
friends, with more passengers served during the month of August than January to July

However, the end of 2021 was marked by a spike in COVID-19 cases due to the
Omicron variant and increased restrictions on international travel. Passenger volumes
have reduced once again to only 25-30 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

“We were pleased to see an increase in travel activity in the summer and fall, bringing
us to about 50 per cent of our pre-pandemic passenger levels during that period,” said
Marie Manning, Chief Commercial Officer and Vice President, Business Development, HIAA. “This was the most activity we had seen since March 2020, so it was very positive
for our community and for our airport, the airlines, and all our partners.”

HIAA, a non-share capital corporation like other airport authorities in Canada, operates
on a user-pay model. Without passenger activity, there are few other ways to generate
revenue, leaving HIAA with no choice but to borrow millions of dollars over the past two
years to maintain safe and efficient airport operations. Official financial results for 2021
are not yet available, but HIAA’s financial loss is expected to be only a marginal
improvement from the $40 million loss reported in 2020.

The overall decrease in passenger traffic during the pandemic has also had a
significant impact on the airlines and other businesses connected to the airport,
including food, beverage, and retail concessions. Approximately 45 per cent of
concessions in the air terminal building remain closed because of the low passenger
volumes, while others have reopened on limited hours due to less frequent flight activity
and ongoing labour shortages.

Despite the continued challenges, there were some highlights in 2021. In addition to the
return of travel activity in the summer and fall months, the Government of Canada also
reinstated Halifax Stanfield’s ability to accept U.S. and international flights, after
scheduled international flights were consolidated to the four largest Canadian airports
for over a year.

“We were thrilled to welcome back our first international scheduled passenger service
to Europe, with Condor Airlines offering non-stop service between Halifax and Frankfurt,
Germany in the fall. We also were pleased to launch a new non-stop service with Flair
Airlines between Halifax Stanfield and Orlando-Sanford, Florida,” said Manning.
Although the Omicron variant has halted the airlines’ plans to resume some U.S. and
international services that were scheduled to begin in early 2022, HIAA remains hopeful
that these non-stop routes will return later in 2022 or 2023 when the global health crisis

“If there is one thing we’ve learned from 2021, it’s that the aviation industry, and its
people and partners, are incredibly resilient,” said Carter. “Our community can be
confident knowing the team at Halifax Stanfield continues to be here to serve our
passengers and communities as soon as they are ready to visit their loved ones or book
their well-deserved vacation,” said Carter. “Better days are on the horizon.”

Source: Release

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