Statistics just released indicate that Northwest Regional Airport is on track to shatter its previous record for passenger traffic figures set back in 2014.
Buoyed by two major industrial projects, Rio Tinto’s aluminium smelter rebuild in Kitimat and BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line, there were 253,368 passengers recorded moving through the airport in 2014.
With early construction work ahead of LNG Canada’s multi-billion-dollar liquefied natural gas plant at Kitimat, there have already been 135,677 passenger movements to the end of June.
“If this keeps up, I believe we will,” says airport general manager Carman Hendry. “We should hit 300,000 this year.”
Last year’s completion of an expanded departure seating area to accommodate just under 500 people means the airport is well-suited to handle the additional traffic, he added.
“This airport is now built for it,” Hendry says. “Everybody’s handling it fine.”
Passenger traffic began to increase last year, ending in 240,253 movements. From March to the end of June, each month has seen more than 20,000 passengers moving through the airport.
June alone saw 24,154 movements, gaining on the current monthly record of 24,670 movements set in August 2014.
Air Canada’s recent announcement that it will add another two daily routes in the fall – Terrace-Vancouver and Terrace-Calgary – will only add to travel options for business and other travel, particularly from Calgary, Hendry says.
“Looking at the schedule, you can leave here at noon and be in Las Vegas at a quarter to five,” he says.
The airport has stepped up security and now employs a security company called Paladin – one of the company’s responsibilities is to ensure that only authorized people have access to sensitive areas such as aircraft parking spots and runways.
The passenger numbers recorded every month by the airport only reflect scheduled airline flights, not private aircraft or charters.
There’s already a charter connection from Edmonton to Terrace tied to LNG construction-related activity at Kitimat every Tuesday. Bids are now being evaluated from carriers for an increase in chartered flights beginning in late fall, says Hendry.
That’s raised the prospect of large construction companies building their own facilities and not using the main terminal.
The airport does have land pegged in its master development plan that can be leased for facilities but Hendry says there’s no requirement that companies provide their own terminals.
“Everyone’s welcome at the main terminal. There’s no requirement for companies to provide their own if they don’t want to,” he says.
But some companies may choose to lease and build if doing so fits their construction-related activities and adds to the efficiency of their operations, Hendry continues.
Companies operating chartered flights from their own facilities don’t have the same security and screening requirements as experienced at public terminals, he says.
Hendry says the airport has already fielded lease inquiries.