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U.S. and Canadian Airports Could Lose $44 Billion in 2021 From COVID-19

A new estimate by Airports Council International-North America suggests that because the U.S.-Canada border remains closed due to non-essential travel, airports on both sides could lose over $44 billion in lost revenues. The group is calling on leaders from both nations to work together to reopen flights for cross-border travel.

On March 22, 2020, the United States of America and Canada mutually closed their borders to non-essential travel with the hopes of curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. One year later, the border remains closed, while airports and related businesses continue to lose revenue. A new estimate from Airports Council International-North America suggests up to $44 billion in revenue is at stake unless borders reopen to all air travel this year.

ACI Calls on International Leaders to Work Together to Safely Re-Open Travel

The close relationship between the United States and Canada is well established, with border control officials working together to open U.S. preclearance facilities at Canadian airports. However, the novel Coronavirus outbreak presented a once-in-a-lifetime challenge, forcing both sides to close borders with the hopes of stopping the spread. One year later, ACI-North America is now calling on stakeholders on both sides to work together to safely re-open cross-border air travel.

“For decades, our airports, airlines, and governments have worked together to steadily improve the cross-border flow of travelers and goods while preserving the safety, security and health of everyone in the air travel bubble,” the organization said in a statement. “Once again, we have an opportunity to come together, focus our efforts, and demonstrate for the world how two countries can safely reopen our borders to international travel.”

The group notes that although airports are public facilities, their revenue comes solely from usage fees. A combination of airlines paying landing fees, airport facility fees charged to flyers and rent from retail stores all contribute to an airline’s bottom line. Furthermore, 21 privately-operated airports pay rent to Canada’s federal government, contributing $5.2 billion back to Ottawa since 1992. Without international airlines and passengers arriving and departing airports, the entire industry could lose out on over $44 billion in revenue.

“The financial and societal impacts from such a prolonged closure will only grow deeper the longer the border remains without a plan to ensure a healthy, safe, and secure reopening,” the group said. “It is incumbent upon these impacted businesses to join our call for urging the U.S. and Canadian governments, along with their stakeholders, to prepare a reopening roadmap.”

Reopening Call Comes as Airlines Want White House to Do More

ACI-North America’s call to reopen the U.S.-Canadian border for airline flyers is the latest move by the travel industry to put more pressure on the government. In early March 2021, several stakeholders sent a letter to the Biden administration to ask the White House to take a lead in developing a digital health passport standard.