Edmonton airport gets $25M from Ottawa to cover COVID-19 losses

Edmonton International Airport will get about $25 million in federal funding to offset COVID-19's impact and complete projects it put off while ridership was low.

The cash consists of $18.5 million from Transport Canada's Airport Critical Infrastructure Program and nearly $6.2 million from the national Airport Relief Fund.

EIA was one of many airports across Canada closed to international flights in March 2020.  It will only begin accepting American routes on Aug. 9 and travellers from other countries on Sept. 7, when border restrictions ease.

In 2020, the number of flyers who passed through the airport dropped from 8.1 million to 2.6 million. In the first half of 2021, only 700,000 passengers had travelled through Edmonton – one sixth of normal traffic, estimated EIA's president and CEO Tom Ruth.

"This feels like one more step in our journey toward recovery and that's never been more vital for our airport, for industry, and for economic recovery," he said.

Ridership noticeably increased over the previous week, Ruth added; the airport has been counting about 5,000 outbound passengers daily.

The money from the federal government and relief fund will help to maintain EIA's services. The $18.5 million from the infrastructure program will fund runway, safety area, airfield lighting, and aircraft apron upgrades.

Neither of Ottawa's contributions require flight prices to be kept at similar levels, but officials said the cash will prevent pandemic costs from being put on customers.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra flew into EIA for the announcement. It was the third visit by a federal government member in July.

"I know there are all kinds of political sometimes football that takes place," Alghabra said, "but notwithstanding that, I'm here and so are other ministers to demonstrate to Albertans and to entire country how important Alberta to Canada and how important Alberta to our government is."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Calgary at the beginning of the month to meet with Alberta's premier and the city's mayor.

And Canada's infrastructure minister was in Edmonton days earlier to announce money had been greenlit for the city's LRT extension project.