Moving into 2017, growth on a number of levels is the focus for the Red Deer Airport.
That was the message from CEO Graham Ingham during the annual public meeting held Thursday at the Black Knight Inn.
“The good news is that starting January 1st, it’s like someone flicked on the switch at the airport – all of a sudden we started doing regular charters on a Wednesday with a number of different carriers, and we were back to Fort St. John as well as Medicine Hat,” he said. “That’s been a steady stream of revenue for the airport. And it was really missed in 2016. So it looks like the economy is recovering a little bit.
“The other good news is that in April it’s like someone flicked on the switch for Air Canada – we had seen about 36 months of steady declines in passenger numbers, and that seems to have stopped in April. We matched – within two people – what we flew in 2016. And this month, we are off to a good start. We are starting to see numbers up around 45, or 50 a day which is really encouraging.”
Ingham also noted the airport is seeing a lot more charter traffic.
“That’s really encouraging for the airport, because, as you know, we generate a lot of our revenue through landing fees, terminal fees, passenger facility fees – those types of things.
“Things are definitely picking up at the airport.”
Ingham also said that the long-awaited runway extension that takes them from 5,500 ft. to 7,500 ft. was wrapped up on time and on budget. “To date, it’s probably our largest capital project ever at the airport – about $9.5 million.
“That’s significant, because it’s really our first step in the airport’s business growth strategy. Now that it’s done, we can actually engage the carriers to talk about increasing the level of service at the airport.” That includes preparing for the 2019 Canada Winter Games, he said.
The Red Deer Airport Runway Extension Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony takes place May 12th at 11 a.m.
“Getting the airport into a position where it can take additional traffic is really important to us, and we are working on that pretty hard,” he said. “We also want to be in a position to capitalize on the potential of adding Canada’s first ultra-low cost carriers to the mix here. It’s really, really important that we get going on those projects,” he said.
Ingham pointed out that a good chunk of the airport’s revenue also comes from land leases. “We do a lot of aircraft de-icing, too. Quite a bit of the revenue also comes from us spraying the aircraft and preparing it for departure.”
Looking ahead, it’s really all about growth, said Ingham. “We want to attract additional carriers, so we want to increase that level of service. A survey that was done in 2015 asked what the top three destinations were out of Red Deer and in Canada, and they came in as Toronto, Vancouver and Kelowna. In the U.S., the (top destinations) were Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles,” he said.
“We want to get ourselves in a position where we can offer different alternatives rather then just driving to Calgary or Edmonton,” he said. “It’s the number one thing on my list is to aggressively go after these ultra low-cost carriers and do whatever we can to increase the level of service here.” That means further expansions to the terminal itself, and to parking as well.
He said that he’s also looking at building additional revenue via non-aeronautical business as well.
“Generally speaking, about 55 per cent of an airport’s revenue comes from people and planes – the other 45 per cent comes from industrial-type activity,” he said. “We’ve got hundreds of acres out there of untapped land – if we can develop a vision and come up with a strategy with our stakeholders, that’s something that we really want to focus on, too.”