THE NORTHWEST Regional Airport continues to set records with 2014 coming in at 253,368 passengers – the highest ever.
The figure is a full 76,000 passengers over the 2013 total which itself was substantially higher than 2012’s total of 139,193 passengers.
Airport manager Carman Hendry said the 2014 figure was within his own forecast.
“We had budgeted conservatively, we always do, but that’s what I had been expecting,” he said, about increased traffic last year driven by a number of construction projects and liquefied natural gas pipeline and plant preparations.
Hendry’s projecting a slight drop in passenger traffic in 2015 compared to the past year based partially on the scheduled completion of Rio Tinto Alcan’s complete overhaul of its Kitimat aluminum smelter.
“I think we’ll do something in the order of 240,000 [passengers],” said Hendry.
He did note, however, that the project’s main contractor, Bechtel, rotates its workforce in and out using chartered aircraft and that the airport does not count charter passengers in its passenger totals. Last year that charter total reached 20,800 passengers.
Although both Air Canada and Westjet are bringing in Terrace-Calgary nonstop service in late spring, Hendry says that may not necessarily increase passenger traffic.
Those now travelling between the two cities have to connect through other airports so the new flights will be more convenient, he said.
“They will definitely increase the service we can offer out of Terrace,” Hendry noted of the new connections.
December 2014 passenger traffic itself was seven per cent higher than for December 2013 with fewer flights affected by weather and other factors.
Continued improvements to the airport’s runway lighting system, particularly adding high-powered quartz lighting, have helped pilots making final approaches, said Hendry.
“When they come down to 250 [feet] above the ground they have to see the runway. But there will be times if fog is thick when they won’t. That’s the case here just as it is in Vancouver,” he said.