A troubled airport hit with a travel ban
On the same day the Prime Minister announced a series of sweeping measures to prevent non-essential travel and curb the spread of more infectious variants of COVID-19, the Winnipeg airport released the final report on a year’s results marred by the pandemic.
All services to and from “popular sun destinations” in the Caribbean and Mexico were suspended until the end of April, and all flights to Canada – passenger, private, charter and from the United States. United – will land at just four airports: Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal.
Travelers are ordered to quarantine themselves at a government-approved hotel for up to three days – at their own expense – pending the results of a COVID-19 test at the airport. It could cost more than $ 2,000 per person, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters from the steps of Rideau Cottage on Friday.
Those who test positive will self-isolate at designated government facilities, while those who test negative will be able to serve the remainder of their two-week quarantine at home, Trudeau said. All travelers will also need another swab on Day 10, and airlines will help organize the return of customers who are currently traveling.
“We all agree this just isn’t the time to fly,” Trudeau said, adding that Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat all agreed with the new guidelines. “By putting these tough measures in place now, we can expect a better time when we can all plan this vacation.”
For Manitoba, this means that the closest airport to get to the province from overseas will be thousands of kilometers away, either in Alberta or Ontario. And it looks like there won’t be any outgoing international flights due to the new announcement either.
The measures particularly affect departures and arrivals from Minnesota, which is the only scheduled international flights to Winnipeg from the US twin cities of Minneapolis-Saint Paul since the start of the pandemic.
“But more than that,” said Barry Rempel, CEO and Chairman of the Winnipeg Airports Authority, “even domestic air travel will likely be stranded because of this – which means even more losses for us.”
WAA’s fourth quarter results on Friday showed an 86.6% drop in passenger traffic. The airport reported that its earnings before interest, depreciation, amortization, and taxes were $ 1.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2020. Compared to 2019, when the unaudited consolidated revenue was $ 33.9 million in the during the same period.
“Of course we all want that safety aspect of things, no one disputes that. But we were never really consulted on all of this, ”Rempel told The Free Press. “What makes you think isolation and testing are different in Toronto and Winnipeg? ”
Immediately after Trudeau’s announcement, Rempel said he heard from local hotels around the airport that were “ready and eager” to become quarantine sites. He said he was disappointed that none of this had been considered by the federal government.
“We have no idea what’s coming next,” Rempel said. “Closures and closures are understandable, but where’s the plan? The feds really haven’t told us anything.
Abby Gananendran was stopping over in Winnipeg on a Montreal-Calgary flight when he heard the news. “I’m taking the plane for the weekend and I’m definitely in favor of it,” he said, as he stood in line at an airport restaurant.
“The point is, I’ve seen all of my friends in Cancun and these other beach spots all over my Instagram for months,” he said. “They’re living their best lives, and I guess now the government is finally saying, sorry, it’s still a pandemic.”
Gananendran suspects that they will “continue to live their best lives” and stay in these sunny destinations. “They have nothing to lose, so why not work from home from Mexico? ” he said.
Winnipeg travel agent Christine Ward says she understands why the strict measures might be the only way to immobilize passengers like this, who have found ways to get around previous restrictions.
“I haven’t had a single client nationally or internationally since March,” said Ward, who had about 400 repeat clients a year with at least a dozen more who were seasonal, before the pandemic. These numbers, she added, are comparable to those of several other top travel counselors in the country.
“I know any idea of a trip that might have happened will be cut short when people hear about this $ 2,000 hotel fee.”
Aviation experts say the measures have the potential to trigger bankruptcies in Canada’s airline industry and force permanent shutdowns for years to come.
Airline bookings had already dropped significantly this month after Ottawa announced that travelers entering Canada would be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before departure. Falling demand has prompted airlines to cut more routes and staff, with Air Canada laying off 1,700 workers this month.
Robert Kokonis, director of consulting firm AirTrav Inc., said he was disheartened by the lack of help following Friday’s announcement.
“It’s the nail in the coffin,” Kokonis said. “It will certainly end hundreds of jobs, if not thousands, across the country.”
The new measures will take effect on February 3 at 10:59 p.m. CST.