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Northwestern BC airport hits monthly high

THE NORTHWEST Regional Airport continues to be one of the busiest places in the area with 14,203 passengers passing through its doors in May, an increase of more than 1,000 people compared to April’s figure of 13,150.

It was also the first time in the airport’s history that it posted a monthly passenger figure of more than 14,000.

To the end of May, the passenger count stands at 60,602 passengers, an increase of nearly 15 per cent over the 52,753 posted to the end of May 2012.

“And our busiest month of the year, August, has yet to come,” said airport manager Carman Hendry of the increase in traffic this year.

An expansion of the airport’s original washrooms, the ones by the arrival area, will make things more convenient for the growing number of passengers using the facility.

Hendry expects work to be finished in little over a month.

“Washrooms are the single largest issue in any customer satisfaction survey,” he added. “Cleanliness, size and convenience are what’s important.”

The airport is also looking forward to Telus beefing up cell service and is also looking at ways to speed up its WIFI service.

The passenger count has been steadily increasing, following the improving economic fortunes of the city and area.

As an indication of the growth, Air Canada Jazz begins a fifth flight weekdays starting in July and Hawkair through partner company Central Mountain is now into its third week of Terrace to Calgary service via Prince George.

And, on occasion, Air Canada passengers may have the benefit of flying in a 50-passenger Bombardier-made jet instead of a Dash 8.

One such jet was pressed into service on the Terrace to Vancouver run several times two weekends ago.

The jets “are usually scheduled on other routes, but every day, aircraft can be substituted for any number of reasons from mechanical delays to weather delays where the aircraft is coming in from another location, etc.” said Air Canada’s Angela Mah.

Another recent growth factor is carrier Hawkair landing a charter contract with Bechtel, the main company working on the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum smelter rebuild project in Kitimat.

A Hawkair Dash 8 is making trips each Saturday and Sunday ferrying workers to and from Vancouver.

Hawkair general manager Rod Hayward said the charter provides Bechtel with the comfort that it can get its workers back and forth when needed.

“This schedule was designed to meet their needs. We’ve sold the whole plane to them,” he said.

These flight numbers will be recorded separately.

Airport officials cite BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line, the construction of the Red Chris copper and gold mine, continuing work on the rebuilding of Rio Tinto Alcan’s Kitimat aluminum smelter and the prospect of natural gas pipelines and accompanying liquefied natural gas plants as reasons for the increase. The Forrest Kerr run-of-river project on the Iskut river is another attraction.

 

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