The airports in Saskatchewan's two major cities will have to reapply to maintain their international status after changes by Transport Canada.
In January, Transport Canada released a new document outlining the requirements for a Canadian airport to be considered international. The document lists 13 airports across the country that it designated "international." The Saskatoon and Regina airports were not on the list.
The document goes on to say that any airport that believes it deserves the designation has until June 30 of this year to apply or reapply for it.
While the long-term impact is unclear, the change is creating some political turbulence.
Michael Kram, a Conservative Member of Parliament for Regina-Wascana, took aim at the Federal government in a news release, suggesting the Liberals "appear determined to decimate air transportation in Western Canada.
"The actions against Saskatchewan airports by the Liberal government seem almost punitive in nature."
Regina Airport Authority president and CEO James Bogusz said the airport will be reapplying for the international designation.
"Saskatchewan certainly needs designated airports internationally and we are planning on following through on this process. In fact, we are working on it right now."
Bogusz said a lack of international designation likely wouldn't stop flights into and out of the U.S., but it could ground direct charter flights.
"Those charter flights are incredibly popular. That would be what you think of as your Sunwing Flights to Mexico, Cuba and [the] Caribbean."
For now, Bogusz said there is no impact because international flights are forced to land in other centres as part of Canada's efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has essentially halted air travel, but the airport is also dealing with a Nav Canada review that could shut down the control tower.
"At the end of the day we want to recover back to full strength," said Bogusz. "For us, full strength means having a NAV Canada control tower, it involves being internationally designated."
Saskatoon airport confident designation will remain
Andrew Leeming, a VP with Saskatoon's airport, released a statement on the matter Monday.
"In reviewing the criteria, the Saskatoon Airport Authority does not anticipate any change in the international designation as the main requirements are already met," he said.
Leeming listed airport certification, a security program, airport rescue firefighting and on-site customs as some of the requirements the Saskatoon airport already has in place.