Although travellers have been returning to the Greater Sudbury Airport in greater numbers, air traffic is still half that of pre-pandemic levels.
The Greater Sudbury Airport Authority hosted their annual general meeting at Tom Davies Square on Tuesday, during which chair Dave Paquette maintained an optimistic tone.
“There’s lots of exciting news on the horizon,” he said, adding the airport’s future will be entwined with economic prosperity he anticipates for the Greater Sudbury area.
“We are at the mercy of the airlines ... but all the things we can have an impact on, we’re trying to do our best to improve the customer experience and really make the airport a jewel for our community,” he said.
“The airport is in good hands,” he added. “We obviously went through a challenging period with the pandemic, but what’s been really positive is we’re seeing it come up again, and projections for the future looking good.”
Greater Sudbury Airport Authority CEO Giovanna Verrilli attended Tuesday’s AGM. Sudbury.com caught up with her after the meeting for additional insight on how post-COVID recovery has gone.
Last year saw a passenger count of approximately 112,000, she said, which was roughly double the count recorded in 2021, but still half their pre-pandemic annual volume.
Year-to-date, she said they’re looking at an additional traffic growth of 16 per cent, which she said, “is not an insignificant number, however, it shows there’s still a great deal of work we need to do.”
This year’s numbers fall shy of what they’d expected due to Sunwing departing sooner than anticipated and Air Canada’s third daily flight to Toronto returning later than they’d thought it would.
“We do expect the rebound to be more significant in the last half of the year,” she said.
“While we expect the recovery and growth in passenger numbers to be greater in the last half of the year, the challenges that the industry faces are still out there.”
As previously reported, flight cancellations have been a pandemic-era issue at not only the Greater Sudbury Airport, but also at airports throughout the network. This has been due to airlines’ inability to ramp staff levels back up as quickly as they’ve needed in order to meet growing demand.
The same as with passenger traffic, this issue has been turning around in recent months, Verrilli said. On-time performance, including cancellations, has improved from 65 per cent to 78 per cent compared to this time last year.
“There’s a lot of positive momentum now,” Paquette told Sudbury.com after the meeting. “I think we’re on the cusp of really getting moving again.”
The airport’s leadership is expected to release a long-term strategic plan later this year, which Paquette said includes “a very ambitious plan on the capital and revenue sides.”
Earlier this year, the Greater Sudbury Airport’s leadership co-signed an open letter with other Northern Ontario airports requesting federal funding to help ease them out of the pandemic.
Despite this request, last year’s operational finances broke even. They achieved this, in part, by putting off capital projects, which the upcoming strategic plan will address.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.