Charlottetown Airport eyes summer 2022 for travel comeback it's been waiting for

·2 min read
Airport CEO Doug Newson says there are conversations underway with airlines such as Flair, Swoop, Air Canada and WestJet about adding flights.   (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC - image credit)
Airport CEO Doug Newson says there are conversations underway with airlines such as Flair, Swoop, Air Canada and WestJet about adding flights. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC - image credit)

As staff at the Charlottetown Airport reflect on the volatile year that was 2021, they're hoping the worst of the pandemic is now behind them and that 2022 will be the year things return back to normal.

Traffic at the airport was down over 90 per cent in the first six months of 2021, according to CEO Doug Newson.

But as restrictions began to ease, summer came and P.E.I. opened up, the airport was "relatively pleased" with the mid-July to early December numbers.

"We got back to between 50-60 per cent of normal, so still a long way to go but much better than what we saw in 2020 and certainly the first half of 2021," he told CBC News: Compass host Brittany Spencer.

"Overall, an up and down year would be a good way to describe it."

Airports in Canada received funding through federal government programs to help keep them running.

At the Charlottetown Airport, some early decisions to cut some expenses combined with some travel and funding through Ottawa helped keep the airport in business.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

"We're in much better shape coming out of this pandemic than we probably expected to be, and quite confident that the worst is behind us," he said. "As we do reemerge from the pandemic we'll be able to start reinvesting in the airport and our facilities."

The uncertainty of 2021 meant Newson and staff kept a watchful eye on travel restrictions, changing public health protocols and much more.

"It's been challenging on staff and employees … just when we do think that we've turned a corner on this, something like what we've seen in the past few weeks emerges," Newson said.

"I do remain very optimistic about the future of the airport, and even 2022 as we come out of this, and I do see much brighter days ahead."

Omicron disruptive, but summer is the goal

Omicron has already led to some turbulence for airports in Canada. The COVID-19 variant — as well as uncooperative weather — has led to cancelled flights and staff shortages across the country, but Newson is hopeful this wave will soon pass and the summer will be a big one for the airport.

Newson said there are conversations underway about adding flights and more to come with airlines such as Flair, Swoop, Air Canada and WestJet.

He expects at that point there will be much pent up demand to travel and P.E.I. "will be seen as a very safe destination for domestic tourism."

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