Scheduled passenger totals dipped in February compared to the same month the year before but overall numbers are holding up when charter traffic is added, says Northwest Regional Airport manager Carman Hendry.
And he’s confident the airport will meet its this-year goal of 235,000 regularly scheduled passengers.
February’s regular passenger total was 16,141, a decline of 1,951 from February 2014.
But add in the 2,069 charter passengers (that’s in contrast to the 435 charter passengers for Feb. 2014) and overall traffic for February 2015 was 18,210, about par with the February 2014 regular and charter total of 18,527.
Hendry said the dip in passenger numbers from regularly-scheduled flights was anticipated and is to be expected as work winds down on the massive Rio Tinto Alcan Kitimat smelter modernization project.
The number of passengers on charter flights arranged by Bechtel, the prime contractor on the smelter project through Hawkair to rotate workers in and out, are also expected to decline as the project nears completion by the middle of the year.
Beginning last spring, those charter flights handled more than 2,000 passenger movements a month.
“It’ll come to the point where they will drop off completely,” said Hendry of the charter flights. “When they get down to a certain number [of passengers], it’s going to be easier to have them on scheduled flights.”
For the calendar year 2014, there were 253,369 passengers on scheduled flights and 23,828 charter passengers, for a total of 277,197 passengers.
The prediction of 235,000 passengers for the airport’s 2015 fiscal year, which begins April 1, is within the airport’s budget guidelines, said Hendry.
“Actually what we’re seeing is a little bit of growth in the mining industry,” he added.
New to the airport beginning in late spring will be direct Terrace to Calgary flights from both WestJet and Air Canada, adding another level of service for passengers heading east or south, said Hendry.
Passenger numbers at the airport began to climb beginning three years ago as a number of industrial projects in the region took hold.
In addition to the Kitimat smelter project, companies planning liquefied natural gas plants and the pipelines to feed those plants began field and other work.
B.C. Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line, completed last year, also bolstered passenger traffic.