WINNIPEG -- March 2020 was a month like no other for the Winnipeg Airports Authority (WAA). The last month of the authority’s first financial quarter of 2020 brought with it the pandemic-related worldwide travel slump.

As a result, the James A. Richardson International Airport saw passenger traffic decline in March from a typical average of about 12,000 passengers a day, down to an average of only 150 a day. In a news release, the WAA reported that during the last week of March, traffic was down 95 per cent compared to the same week in 2019, and down 19.27 per cent over the entire quarter compared to 2019.

First quarter 2020 earnings for WAA were $13.4 million in 2020 versus $18.0 million for the same period in 2019.

WAA president and CEO Barry Rempel said despite the authority’s general policy of preparing for unexpected disruptions, no one could have predicted the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the aviation industry.

“Despite being in a strong financial position, our company has not been immune to these new realities. While eliminating contractor costs and slashing capital budgets assist, our significant operating costs remain fixed,” Rempel said.

Throughout the airport, steps have already been taken to cut costs, including closing off parts of the terminal in order to minimize heating and maintenance costs, turning down thermostats, removing some boarding ramps from service and powering down kiosks to reduce electrical consumption.

Rempel said while passenger traffic has virtually evaporated, it’s critical to keep certain airport services in place for other types of air carriers.

“I am pleased to see the reaction of our team as we work with staff to find innovative ways of balancing the requirement to keep runways available for those who desperately need access to supply chains and the reality of plummeting revenues, “ Rempel said.

In fact, WAA reports cargo traffic in the first quarter of this year actually outperformed global trends. Total cargo landings in Winnipeg were up a little over five per cent compared to the same period in 2019.