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Halifax airport says it's working to regain air traffic grounded by pandemic, especially to U.S.

Halifax Stanfield International Airport saw a substantial drop in U.S. passengers between 2019 and 2023.  (Galen McRae - image credit)
Halifax Stanfield International Airport saw a substantial drop in U.S. passengers between 2019 and 2023. (Galen McRae - image credit)

The largest airport in Atlantic Canada says it is working to recovering its pre-pandemic passenger numbers, but it's not there yet.

The Halifax Stanfield International Airport says almost 3.6 million passengers flew through the airport in 2023. That's an increase over 2022, but still about 15 per cent lower than the year before the pandemic, when 4.2-million people flew through Halifax Stanfield.

Meanwhile, changes in flight offerings resulted in far fewer passengers between Halifax and the U.S. in 2023 compared to pre-pandemic.

Marie Manning is the vice-president of business development and the chief commercial officer at the Halifax International Airport Authority.

Marie Manning is the vice-president of business development and the chief commercial officer at the Halifax International Airport Authority.
Marie Manning is the vice-president of business development and the chief commercial officer at the Halifax International Airport Authority.

Marie Manning is the vice-president of business development and the chief commercial officer at the Halifax International Airport Authority. (Galen McRae)

"We're anticipating further growth," she said of the upcoming year. "We're seeing expansion by all of our airline partners, and new airlines that are coming back or returning, that participated or operated here pre-pandemic and will be back again in 2024."

In recent years major carriers like WestJet and Air Canada have reduced service within the Atlantic region and U.S. carriers also cut routes.

The airport released numbers showing the number of passengers is recovering compared to pre-pandemic, but the number of passengers to and from the United States is still lagging.

The airport recorded the number of U.S. passengers at 361,348 in 2019 and 197,551 in 2023. That's a 45 per cent drop.

The airport said the U.S. air sector has seen a lot of crew and aircraft shortages, and in 2023 the only U.S. carrier to offer flights at Stanfield was American Airlines.

"That has been an area that has been harder to recover," Manning said. "A lot of those aircraft that served that region were operated by regional-sized aircraft. And with the pilot shortage, this was one of the biggest areas and challenges from a recovery perspective."

FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2014 file photo, an American Airlines Flight Airbus A319 is parked at a gate at Philadelphia International Airport as a US Airways plane taxis in the background, in Exton, Pa. In 2005, US Airways controlled nearly 66 percent of the seats in Philadelphia. Now that US Airways has merged with American, the combined airline has 77 percent of the seats. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Philadelphia Daily News via AP, File) THE EVENING BULLETIN OUT, TV OUT; MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT

American Airlines is planning to add flights to New York and Washington from Halifax in 2024, in addition to existing service to Philadelphia and Boston. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Philadelphia Daily New/Associated Press)

However, the airport expects to add to its United States offerings in the spring and summer of 2024.

Delta Airlines and United Airlines will restart service from Halifax to New York and Newark. American Airlines will also add flights to New York and Washington in addition to existing service to Philadelphia and Boston.

The airport also expects to add some European routes this year including Icelandair's service to Reykjavik, WestJet flights to Dublin, London and Edinburgh, and Condor and Discover Airlines flights to Frankfurt.

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