Five airlines in the NWT are expected to receive their share of the $8.7 million in federal funds set aside for scheduled passenger service airlines by May 15, GNWT spokesperson Krystal Pidborochynski said on Saturday.
The funds, which Ottawa announced on April 14, are part of a larger $130-million package to support the territories and Northern businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. The NWT is due to receive about $32 million in total, with $23.4 million earmarked for health and social services support.
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The $8.7 million for airlines will help the companies with their scheduled connections to communities and with essential goods like food and medical supplies, the GNWT said in a news release on Friday.
The funds will be distributed as follows:
- Canadian North $5,372,000
- Air Tindi $1,565,000
- Northwestern Air Lease $793,000
- North Wright Airways $589,000
- Aklak Air $381,000
“Funding amounts were based on historical financial information and projections provided by the airlines,” said Pidborochynski.
The GNWT is anticipating a second phase of funding relief for Northern airlines, and will continue to work with Transport Canada, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) and the Northern carriers to ensure airlines receive the support they need to remain operational.
The assistance comes on top of the previously announced waiving of all landing fees at NWT airports, and lease, licence, and concession fees for businesses operating in NWT airports, expected to save NWT aviation businesses about $2 million, the release said.
“This funding is designed to ensure that NWT’s scheduled passenger air carriers can continue to operate during the Covid-19 pandemic without the need to increase costs for consumers,” said Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek. “I know there is still more need within our airline industry and I look forward to working with Transport Canada and CIRNAC to ensure that we maintain our connections to all communities at this critical time.”
Dan Valin, spokesperson for Canadian North said on Monday that the airline is grateful for the support from the GNWT and federal governments, after pandemic-related disruptions have significantly reduced passengers and flights.
“Despite the loss of passenger volumes, we have continued to serve the needs of the communities to the best of our abilities for the last two months since the start of the Covid-19 crisis. It would not, and will not, be possible to maintain this service without ongoing support from all levels of government,” he said.
The $5.3 million for the airline will be enough for it to sustain its existing reduced schedule but not to increase it, Valin added.
“We are not contemplating any changes to our schedule at the moment but we remain ready and able to increase our schedules when the demand and health authority guidelines support it.”
Chris Reynolds, president of Air Tindi said on Saturday that the funding is “greatly appreciated.”
“We’ve been communicating with the GNWT’s Department of Finance for a long time about this and they’ve been very responsive. We’re really pleased to receive the funding. We’re in a crisis (now) as are the other airlines,” he said. “Long-term wise is it enough? No it’s not. At the same time you don’t want to be underappreciative of the work the (GNWT and federal government) have done so far. We’re looking forward to the second phase. You don’t take an airline that’s really capital intensive to operate and hit it with something like Covid and expect it to survive. This support is necessary to help a lot of businesses.”