VANCOUVER -- Vancouver International Airport predicts more than half of its workforce will be laid off as it faces what its CEO calls "the biggest challenge" the airport has ever faced.

In a video message posted on YVR's Twitter account Friday, CEO Craig Richmond announced the layoffs, which are a result of decreases in travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and discussed their anticipated economic impact on the region.

“No person or industry has been spared and this is very apparent with global aviation, which is facing a crisis which surpasses 9/11, SARS and the global economic downturn in terms of longevity, depth and human cost.” Richmond said.

More than 26,000 people work at YVR for hundreds of employers. If half of those 26,000 employees lose their jobs, some 13,000 people would be without work.

"We now expect more than 50 per cent of our airport workforce will be laid off, and the effect on our economy will be immense," Richmond said. "To every airport worker: Please know we're doing everything in our power to support your eventual return."

A clarification was later issued to say the layoffs would not impact staff of the Vancouver Airport Authority, which manages airport operations.

In the coming weeks, Richmond says international and U.S. traffic at YVR is expected to drop to near zero, while domestic traffic is forecast to be around 30 per cent of its normal volume.

Richmond says that even if passenger flights stop altogether, the airport will remain open as a critical transport hub for food and medicine.