Airport set passenger record last year

A record breaking 470,849 passengers passed though Prince George Airport in 2015, and while the Canada Winter Games provided much of the boost, it wasn't the only reason.

The number represents a 24,920-person increase over the year before and about 15,000 of that was related to the Games, according to Prince George Airport Authority chief executive officer John Gibson.

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He attributed the rest of the increase to a strong economy early in the year.

However, traffic over the last quarter of the year was down 2.5 per cent, which Gibson believes is a product of the slowing economy.

Other highlights from the year, according to the PGAA, included completion of a 25,000-square-foot cargo warehouse at the north end of the main runway, the introduction by Pacific Coastal Airlines of non-stop flights to Victoria six days a week and installation of multi-use furniture in the boarding lounge.

Looking ahead, the PGAA is continuing with its plan to spend $55 million over 10 years on capital projects. About $15 million of that was spent in 2015, mostly going to re-paving and re-lighting the cross-wind runway, which is used by smaller aircraft.

To help cover the cost, the airport improvement fee was raised by $5 as of Jan. 1, to $25.

After depreciation, the PGAA took in about $2.4 million from airport improvement fees in 2014 and every $5 increase to the fee is expected to add about $1 million.

Also, daily parking rates went up from $11 to $13 with weekly rates increasing from $55 to $65.

Gibson said a major focus for 2016 is to convince the federal government to put Prince George Airport on equal footing with most other small airports in terms of funding. The local airport is among six across the country that have been shut out of funding because they sit on federally-owned land, Gibson has said.

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