The Kelowna International Airport expects to see flights drop by more than 50 per cent in light of the recent travel bans announced by the federal government to try and slow the spread of COVID-19.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced international flights would only be able to land at four Canadian airports, which includes Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.
Initially, the Kelowna airport said this would have a minimal impact on the airport because the majority of its flights are from within Canada and the continental U.S.
However, on Wednesday morning the prime minister announced the Canada-U.S. border would be closed to non-essential traffic in both directions, including flights.
As a result, the Kelowna International Airport will now only be conducting domestic flights and emergency based flights for Canadians returning home from abroad. All international flights will be suspended indefinitely.
Sam Samaddar, airport director for the Kelowna International Airport, said this will have an unprecedented impact on the local airport.
“There’s a huge economic impact for airports across the country and (Kelowna International Airport) is no different,” said Samaddar.
“We’re projecting at this point that our traffic volume will drop anywhere between 50 and 60 per cent. This will have a huge effect not just on the airport but on the Okanagan economy. In my 30 years in this business, I’ve never seen that kind of an economic hit to our aviation system. We dealt with something serious after 911, but this is different.”
Sammadar said businesses at the Kelowna airport will be making their own staffing decisions in light of the recent travel ban, but there will certainly be layoffs.
West Jet had already announced that they would cease international and trans-border flights at the end of this week (March 20).