REGINA -- The sharp decline in travel from the pandemic is taking a financial toll on Saskatchewan’s two major airports, with Regina and Saskatoon’s facilities being forced into debt to cover operating costs.

“We have very few planes landing compared to pre-pandemic levels, we have very few passengers using those services,” James Bogusz, the president and CEO of the Regina Airport Authority, said.

Passenger traffic in Regina is down about 85 per cent from last year’s level of 1.2 million people. The decline is similar in Saskatoon, which normally handles 1.5 million passengers.

Regina’s airport costs about $2 million a month to operate. Its cash reserves are nearly depleted.

“We’re down to our last million dollars, in fact we’re a little bit under that as of the end of the year, so we anticipate we’re going to be into our line of credit by January,” Bogusz said.

The Saskatoon airport is in a similar financial situation.

“SKYXE Saskatoon Airport expects to continue incurring operating losses in 2021, which will be financed entirely with new debt,” Nick Purich, the vice president and CFO of Skyxe Saskatoon Airport, said.

The Canadian Airports Council, which represents all airports, is calling for urgent federal assistance.

“The last thing I want is any federal handout, I’m only forced to ask for it because it would be impossible to generate enough revenue to pay even our most basic of operations expenses,” Bogusz said.

Saskatchewan airports operate on a break-even basis. Regina’s airport doubts it will be able to repay debt incurred in 2021, as it joins other Canadian airports lobbying Ottawa for an aid package.