Smithers Regional Airport has received $505,000 in COVID-relief funding from the federal government. (File Photo)

Smithers Regional Airport has received $505,000 in COVID-relief funding from the federal government. (File Photo)

Smithers airport receives $505,000 in COVID-relief funding

Funding from the federal government is intended to help maintain essential regional services

Smithers has received $505,000 in relief funding for the Smithers Regional Airport from the federal government.

Airport manager Rob Blackburn said the money would offset major losses in revenue covering salaries and wages and help complete some capital projects.

These include: window blinds for the boarding lounge, a new steep slope lawn tractor, a new runway reporting computer, new runway line painting equipment and upgrading and improving the terminal’s Wi-Fi, video and electronic door locking systems.

Additionally, Central Mountain Air (CMA), which operates out of the airport, is getting $5 million.

CMA’s service has faced multiple disruptions since the beginning of the pandemic. As recently as last month, the carrier reduced its winter flight schedule eliminating its Tuesday and Thursday flights to multiple destinations in B.C. and Alberta From Jan. 17 to Feb. 20, due to “ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, travel advisories, and local movement restrictions.”

“The health and safety of our customers and employees are our utmost priority and we are proactively reducing our schedule to address these concerns and to ensure we minimize the impact on our customers,” the carrier said in a Jan. 14 release.

The Canadian government’s Regional Air Transportation Initiative (RATI) was launched last year in response to the significant impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the industry with the intent of maintaining regional connectivity and jobs.

“Regional airports and carriers provide a vital service, providing commercial flight access, supporting critical supply chains and promoting economic growth,” Pacific Economic Development Canada said in a press release Feb. 22. “They connect patients to needed medical care and enable essential work travel. They provide important emergency services and cargo operations to supply businesses and frontline workers.”

The Smithers and CMA funding was part of an $18.8 million announcement of cash for 11 regional airports and two air carriers in B.C.

Also in the Northwest, the Stikine Airport Society recieved $328,000 for the Dease Lake Airport.