After the pandemic drought, Alberta airports are experiencing a turbulent takeoff

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After the pandemic drought, Alberta airports are off to a turbulent start

In both Edmonton and Calgary, revenues are increasing, but profits are pending.

Despite the recovery, Calgary International Airports and of Edmonton don't expect to turn a profit this year.

Alberta's two main airports are returning to traffic and rehiring laid-off employees after two years marked by the airline industry's pandemic drought.

With health restrictions and the minimization of travel related to COVID-19, air traffic had collapsed, forcing airport authorities in Calgary and Edmonton to lay off employees to reduce operating expenses.

Things are getting back to normal and people are traveling again, says Edmonton International Airport (YEG) Vice President of Operations, Infrastructure and Communications Steve Maybe.

At the height of the pandemic, the airport was forced to shed about 30% of the approximately 300 workers it had at the end of 2019, he notes. We rehired some of them in the relaunch process, adds Steve Maybe.

Calgary International Airport (YYC) had to make similar choices, confirms its Vice President of Commercial and Chief Financial Officer, Rob Palmer. He adds that about half of the laid off employees have already been rehired.

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Restaurants and other businesses that serve travelers have also started hiring again.

However, the labor shortage remains a major issue, since many employees in the airline industry, as well as restaurant workers, have been laid off and have gone to work elsewhere.

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In addition to the difficulties of hiring, Steve Maybe points out that many new employees with little experience today do their best to learn quickly. As the industry recovers, passengers are coming back, sometimes faster than the rate at which the efficiency of the system is developing, he explains.

In an attempt to make life easier for passengers and address some shortcomings, airport authorities in Calgary and Edmonton recently added a digital queuing system at security checkpoints.

Both in Calgary and Edmonton, the revival of the airline industry and the return of passengers are accompanied by sustained revenue growth, but neither airport expects to record profit this year. We will lose money, underlines Rob Palmer.

Inflation and the general increase in operating costs combine with the debts accumulated since the start of the pandemic to lead to the evaporation of the income collected.

Despite this, the managers of the two airports see the future with optimism. We hope to have turned the page [on the pandemic famine] and are back to pre-pandemic growth, says Palmer.

With information from Stephen Cook

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