The Prince George Airport boss has landed himself a high-flying board position.
John Gibson, president and CEO of the Prince George Airport Authority, has been selected to the board of directors for the Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA). He got there based on the boards he was already active on. He is chair of the Small Airports Caucus of the Canadian Airports Council and he is active on the Canadian Airport Policy Board.
"In terms of Prince George, we get our name out," he said. "Since I was appointed to the North America seat I've had at least 15 people from across the continent ask me about Prince George and what the airport story is here."
This direct interaction will do more than satisfy some curiosities, he said. Prince George's YXS is entering the arena of full-service cargo and passenger international airport. IIt is positioning itself specifically to compete for air traffic between Asia and mainland North America.
"It has a lot of advantages to be at the table with people from all over North America who have all this experience doing this business," he said. "Our issues are fairly well known by the federal government of Canada, and by the airport officials at [main Alaskan competitor] Anchorage, but across North America you move up the pecking order from a commercial standpoint when you come to this table."
Gibson also said the group puts its lobbying influence into aviation industry topics like safety, security, the environment and government airport finances.
High on his own agenda is pressuring the federal government to heed the call of a recent Senate report called "The Future of Canadian Air Travel: Toll Booth or Spark Plug?" admonishing the long tradition of Ottawa charging excessive fees for many of the things the aviation industry does.
"The federal government's high tax rates drive up the costs of doing business in the air sector," Gibson said. "The report explains that freeing the air industry up from those fees will stimulate many other areas of the economy. If government milks that, it hurts other sectors."
ACI-NA member airports account for more than 95 percent of domestic plane activity and virtually all international airline passenger and cargo traffic in North America. More than 350 aviation-related businesses are also members of the association. The board meets about twice per year in person, plus telecommunications throughout the year.
AIRPORT PASSENGERS IN STEEP CLIMB
YXS is on pace to set a record for the number of passengers in and out of Prince George. The previous high mark was 417,000 set in 2008 but, said Gibson, "our numbers dropped like a rock in 2009." As the global economy stabilized, the numbers crept back up, and are now accelerating.
"As of August, we are up six per cent year of over year, and if everything holds steady we will break our old passenger record even though we had fewer planes landing this year. They had higher passenger loads," Gibson explained.