TORONTO -- Canada's busiest airport is cutting approximately 500 jobs because of a significant drop in air traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) announced on Tuesday it is cutting 27 per cent of its workforce at Toronto's Pearson Airport to allow for a more "nimble, innovative, and recovery-focused" operation. 

"These changes reflect a significant decrease in global air traffic, with passenger numbers at Toronto Pearson currently at approximately 1996 operating levels," the GTAA said in a statement. 

The GTAA said passenger numbers in April of this year were reduced by 97 per cent compared to the same period of 2019.

The reduction of jobs will come through the elimination of about 200 unfilled positions, combined with voluntary departures and layoffs totally about 300 employees. 

The reductions come into effect beginning on Monday, with job losses extending through fall 2020.

Among the high-ranking departures are two of the GTAA's vice-presidents, whose work will be redistributed under a revamped management structure headed by Craig Bradbrook.

Bradbrook had been the GTAA's vice-president for aviation services and is now in the newly created position of chief operating officer.

"This reduction in force is a difficult but necessary step, and one that we take with great sadness," GTAA president and CEO Deborah Flint said in a statement.

"We are committed to maintaining our operations and the health and safety of the airport as we evolve our organization to drive our recovery. I am confident that we have a capable and resilient team and the right approach to come through these challenging times with strength."

Among the management departures was Kim Stangeby, vice-president and chief strategy officer, who had also been GTAA's interim vice-president for human resources.

GTAA said it will complete a search for a new chief human resources officer.

The airport operator says it's also working with the Unifor union and Pearson Airport's firefighter association to implement the changes while respecting their labour contracts.

With files from The Canadian Press.