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Staffing issues linger as passenger volumes bounce back at Halifax's airport

In the midst of the summer season, Halifax Stanfield International Airport is now a busy place
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(photo provided)

In the midst of the summer season, Halifax Stanfield International Airport is now a busy place.

That's a much different story from the previous two years, when COVID-19 restrictions hampered travel.

Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, the airport saw 4,188,443 passengers pass through. That figure dropped to 995,426 in 2020. 2021 saw a slight year-over-year increase to 1,076,458.

However, Tiffany Chase. the director of public affairs and marketing at Halifax International Airport Authority, says volumes appear to be on the rebound.

"We're close to being back to the level of activity, if not on some days, exceeding what we saw pre-pandemic for this time of year," she told CityNews Halifax.

However the airport is struggling through the same labour shortage affecting many other sectors right now.

That means some of the shops and restaurants you're used to visiting while you wait for your flight may not be open, including the Tim Hortons right at the top of the stairs post-security. (You can find out what is open by clicking here.)

"In order to work post-security, you have to have a special access card," Chase explained. "That's a requirement of Transport Canada."

"There's an application process and a background check that's done by Transport Canada. That's a process that can take several weeks to a few months," she added. 

And with the entire airline industry ramping back up, a flood of applications have now been submitted from all over the country, creating a backlog.

"People who lost their jobs during the pandemic, because so many of them were laid off while there was very little activity, they've found other careers or jobs, and they've chosen to not come back to aviation or the airport environment," she said. 

"So we also have a lot of new people, which is adding to the backlog."

Chase said about two-thirds of the food and beverage shops have now returned, but you may miss some notable names.

"Starbucks for example is not a concession that will be reopening here, but we have a locally based coffee shop, Connected Coffee," Chase said. "They have Anchored Coffee that's actually roasted here locally. They have goods from Two If By Sea, so we actually have some more localized options that are available."

However, she cautions, some airport shops have reduced hours until they can get more staff.

Before COVID-19 arrived in Nova Scotia, there were 120 organizations operating out of the airport, employing around 5,700 people. That's almost the population of Kentville.

The airport recently held a job fair to help fill some of the vacancies. Chase said there was a lot of interest, and about 20 people were hired right on the spot.

"We're doing what we can to promote what positions are available, what those skill sets are, helping to get the word out on behalf of those employers."

Chase said there's still a wide range of employment opportunities, including retail and server positions, security and pilots.

With summer being the peak travel time, those heading to the airport can expect it to be busy and lineups are likely.

"We're thrilled to see so many people coming through the airport, reconnecting with people and places that they love and have been apart from for so many years," she said. "It will just take a bit more time, but everyone is committed to getting things back to where they were as quickly as possible."

"We're just asking for people's patience ... bear with everyone and be kind to those who are working at the airport," Chase added.




Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the editor for CityNews Halifax.
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