SASKATOON -- The Saskatoon Airport Authority (SAA) says it ended 2020 with a substantial financial operating loss, accumulated financial debt and stifled capital development plans.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused "unprecedented drops" in traffic, "decimating" the airport’s financial position in the process, the SAA said in a news release.

The airport did not disclose the amount of the operating loss. However, it said by year-end, 69% fewer passengers used the airport in 2020 compared to 2019.

“Just as we’ve never experienced a global pandemic, we’ve also never had to develop and implement a plan for recovery from one. Throughout 2020, we have remained committed to serve our guests and our community by providing essential travel services,” airport president and CEO Stephen Maybury said in the release.

“The Saskatoon International Airport remains open for people who still need to travel. We are dedicated to supporting Canada’s economic recovery by continuing to move cargo through our airport and ensure that local Air Ambulance and STARS organizations can continue to provide life-saving services.”

The airport says it continues to deliver contactless and sanitized processes such as pandemic cleaning protocols; self-serve bag drops; adjusted and partitioned passenger flows; ultra-violet sanitization; and air ventilation system upgrades.

The new year brings with it an uncertain demand for air travel once material numbers of people are vaccinated and the airport says it "desperately" hopes for an "inflection point signalling the safe and healthy recovery of passenger travel" and the restart of Saskatoon’s economy.