Despite “a ghastly year for anyone involved in the aviation industry,” according to Martin Crilly, the chair of the Comox Valley Airport Commission, the Comox Valley Airport came out of the past year “rather unscathed.”
On June 23, CVAC held a virtual annual general meeting to review its operations, audited financial statements and provided an update on services by Mike Atkins, the airport’s chief executive officer.
Atkins said annual passenger numbers for 2020 declined to 127,633, however, he added the first three months of the year included pre-pandemic numbers.
Looking specifically at the 20/21 fiscal year, the number of passengers that passed through the airport was 66,581.
He added while the year saw revenues decline by 66 per cent resulting in a deficit for YQQ, the commission didn’t enter the pandemic in debt. Throughout the year, YQQ had a deficit of $727,000, a relatively small amount compared to other airports across the country, however, they did not accumulate any debt as the deficit was managed by their operating fund.
“A big reason for that is because our airfield is serviced by 19 Wing,” said Atkins. “The military operates and maintains the airfield, and we’re grateful to 19 Wing.”
Throughout the year, YQQ was able to keep its entire staff employed by using the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
The airport also secured $360,000 in operational grants from the provincial government.
Atkins noted the facility adapted to the pandemic; the YQQ Ready plan had airlines and the terminal operating under new safety protocols to protect passengers and flight crews, parking meters were removed so that friends and family picking up essential travellers could wait outside and Plexiglass shields have been installed in the terminal to keep passengers and staff safe.
Shortly after the pandemic struck, WestJet reduced its service from Comox to Calgary to four times a week; both Pacific Coastal Airlines and Air Canada pulled their service temporarily. Within a few months, Pacific Coastal returned to servicing the Comox to Vancouver route and Air Canada is set to come on board within a week, Atkins added.
Next week, WestJet is set to onboard a new direct return flight from Comox to Toronto once a week.
The AGM also featured an in memoriam to the airport’s former CEO Fred Bigelow who passed away in September 2020.
Crilly said YQQ is planning to have a physical reminder to Bigelow in the airport at the entrance doors, similar to the stained glass above the departure doors.
“That way we’ll have a piece of Fred we can identify with at the terminal.”