Promising signs of travel recovery are on the horizon for Manitoba’s largest airport, as multiple routes and airlines are expected to be back in service for Winnipeg.
Low-cost carriers Swoop and Flair have relaunched popular connections such as Abbotsford, Hamilton and Kelowna for the summer; including new semi-permanent additions Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa.
On top of that, Calgary-headquartered WestJet will once again fly from Winnipeg to Edmonton and Victoria, while U.S.-based Delta Air is set to resume starting Sept. 13 — paving the path forward for sun destinations, plus Mexico and the Caribbean.
After months of minimal passenger traffic, airport executives told the Free Press rising COVID-19 vaccination rates are to thank for this much-needed dose of welcome news.
"It’s still some uncertainty ahead, but we couldn’t be happier," Barry Rempel, chief executive officer and president of the airports authority, said in an interview Wednesday. "This is the kind of positive outlook that we haven’t had for months and months now."
Ever since the provincial government allowed vaccinated travellers from domestic locations to enter Manitoba without needing to self-isolate, volume numbers have seen an uptick for the first time since the pandemic began. In fact, those figures are even higher than last year.
There’s been an almost 12 per cent increase to passenger traffic at Winnipeg’s airport, which is twice as much as the same quarter in 2020. And consolidated revenue has gone from $9.7 million in the second quarter of 2020 to $11.5 million during the current second quarter of 2021.
Even cargo traffic is seeing significant momentum. An increase of 11 per cent is being reported for second-quarter cargo planes landing at the Richardson International Airport, and gross takeoff weight has jumped by 5.9 per cent compared to 2020.
"I have to say, we’ve done a lot of diversification with our assets that’s led to this moment," said Rempel. "We didn’t have any federal government aid for quite some time, so we had to think on our feet. Now, we not only have that, but we’re also seeing promise with every other metric, too. It’s really quite heartening."
As of Aug. 9, Winnipeg can accept international flights for non-essential travel from fully vaccinated American visitors. In September, immunized visitors from other countries will also be allowed.
It remains to be seen, however, when the U.S. will allow Canadians to enter that country. For now, current border restrictions have been extended until at least Aug. 21.