Airport business taking off

The number of passengers using the Northwest Regional Airport has picked up.

The number of passengers using the Northwest Regional Airport has picked up.

The passenger count reached 9,779 this May, rising from this April’s 9,258 passengers.

This is also better than last May’s numbers, which recorded 9,211 passengers.

“For April and May we’re already combined seven per cent above over last year,” airport manager Carman Hendry  said. “And just for the month of May, the difference is six per cent over last year’s May.

“So we are doing very well, it shows that there’s a recovery happening in the region…because there’s an awful lot of people flying,” he added.

Hendry attributes the rise to the economic recovery in the region.

“When times are good here, we get lots of traffic,” he said.

“We were expecting that we would have some effect from the closure of Eurocan, but haven’t seen ….a big decline from the loss of Euorcan as far as the airport number passengers go.”

There were 44,125 recorded passengers through the airport by the end of May and the airport is predicting 110,000 passengers to go through it this year.

Hendry said with the numbers they’ve seen with the first two months of the fiscal year, he thinks they’ll exceed the expected number of passengers.

The Air Canada flights between Vancouver and Terrace running in the morning and early evening daily that began this spring have also been busy, Hendry said.

The number of passengers is expected to be higher in June as well with the start of Northern Thunderbird Air’s “Miner’s Express” flight June 20.

The 19-seat Beach 1900 airplane will fly out of Smithers, head to Terrace, then go on to Bob Quinn and Dease Lake one flight a day from Monday to Fridays. It previously ran three days a week from Smithers only.

Northern Thunderbird Air’s Bill Hesse said it’s provided a scheduled service out of Smithers to Dease Lake for quite a few years, and had offered it in Terrace for a few years but discontinued the service because of lack of traffic. In the last two years, the company has stopped the service all together between November and April, but Hesse says he doesn’t expect that to be the case this year.

“Most of the businesses in the northwest expect that there’s going to be good things happening….with the transmission line and the mines being developed,” Hesse said, adding that the company has been waiting for activity to increase before re-offering the service to Terrace.

“At a minimum, we would like to be running this one airplane, once a day, five days per week ongoing,” he said.

Northern Thunderbird will be adding a second aircraft on the route July 1 to provide extra capacity, and Hesse said it’s expecting an increased demand in capacity to lead to more flights in a day, or using more aircraft.

“We expect things will start ramping up this year, and starting this spring and onwards, there’s going to be a fairly significant amount of traffic in that area,” he said.

Aside from the work on the Northwest Transmission Line running from Terrace to Bob Quinn and consequent mining and power industry activity, Hesse said there’s always tourist traffic and patients using Terrace as a regional hospital.

“Between the increased activity as well as the usual sports people going up there hunting and fishing, that’s where we expect we’ll need the extra seats,” he said.

He also said that some clients prefer to use Terrace as a base.

“With a few major clients now wanting to go through Terrace, and the organizations up in Dease (Lake), that’s kind of helped push us over the edge to include Terrace,” he said. “And the connection schedules work better out of Terrace as well.”

Northern Thunderbird will be working with partners Hawkair and Central Mountain Air to better connect passengers from Dease Lake to the south.