EDMONTON -- A new report suggests Edmonton International Airport won't see traffic levels return to a pre-pandemic normal until 2024.

The Edmonton Regional Airports Authority saw its rating slightly downgraded from "A (high)" to "A" on Thursday by credit ratings company DBRS Morningstar.

"Before the impact from the coronavirus, passenger volumes had declined by 1.2 per cent to 8.15 million in 2019, primarily because the Boeing 737 MAX aircrafts were grounded in March 2019 and the economy in Edmonton had softened," the report reads.

Passenger volumes have declined globally in the pandemic, either because of lockdowns or travel restrictions by governments, or what DBRS called "psychological aspects" for passengers.

"The impact began in March 2020 and passenger volumes in April and May 2020 totalled only 6 per cent compared with April/May 2019," DBRS found of ERAA traffic.

The ERAA is forecasting 2.7 million passengers in 2020 – one third of last year's volumes.

According to DBRS, ERAA – which consists of the Edmonton International Airport and the Villeneuve Airport – doesn't expect to see 2019 levels again until 2024, unless a vaccine is developed.

It is possible, the credit ratings company noted, regrowth in domestic travel numbers could possibly outpace that of international travel.

EIA Spokesperson Christopher Chodan confirmed pre-COVID-19 levels weren't anticipated for three to five years, calling the credit rating downgrade "unfortunate if not surprising."

"The aviation industry, and the global economy as a whole, have been significantly affected by COVID-19. EIA is working hard to curb our operating costs and Capital Expenditures while maintaining a safe and secure airport."

The DBRS report did conclude the ERAA has enough liquidity for servicing debt payments in the near and medium-term future, and no refinancing requirements coming up.

Chodan said the EIA capital program has been reduced from $103 million to $28 million, and operating and maintenance expenditures by 38 per cent.

The same day as the report was published, Flair announced new flights out of Edmonton to Kelowna, Prince George, Toronto and Vancouver, citing demand from customers for access to those regions.