Quesnel City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday night to waive passenger fees and lease fees for Central Mountain Air through the end of March.
This extends a decision that was made back in June for 6 months that was set to expire near the end of December.
Director of Community Services Jeff Norburn said the revenue losses at the airport, around 65-hundred dollars for the lease and roughly $36,500 in passenger fees, will be offset by grant funding.
“In 2021, the City received 360 thousand dollars under the Provincial Airport Relief Fund, and the city has been approved for up to $326,518 under the Federal Regional Airport Transportation Initiative (RATI program) to support airport operating expenses and lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Norburn said the RATI funding is specifically designed to assist airports in re-establishing or expanding air service that was discontinued or reduced as a result of COVID-19.
Councillor Martin Runge, concerned that a lack of flights was keeping some residents from using the service, wanted to know if more funding could be provided to the airline to increase the number of flights coming in and out of Quesnel.
Norburn noted that they had increased flights in December, but he also said that that wasn’t the way the grant program was designed.
“The RATI funding can’t be provided directly to the airlines. There really isn’t any money that was going to the airline industry. The money was provided to the airports, airport operators, and the intent is that they are able to cover their expenses so they can provide the airlines with deals, so this is about the best that we can do for Central Mountain Air.”
Norburn said Central Mountain Air is indicating that the chance of increasing the number of flights is certainly improved if the city was able to extend the fee waiver.
“Central Mountain Air reports that their operations in Quesnel are not yet breaking even, and they are not yet generating positive margins when forecasting into 2022.”
Central Mountain Air suspended scheduled flight service to Quesnel back in April of 2020 due to COVID, and service didn’t resume until the end of June of this year.