Airport traffic up over last year

Along with mascot Amelia Bearheart making her rounds in the airport and around the city, 2017 is off to a robust start with an increase in passenger traffic at the Prince George Airport.

"Passenger traffic was up 3.78 per cent in 2016. This was a bench mark for us," said John Gibson, president and chief executive officer for Prince George Airport Authority.

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Gibson along with board chair Dean Mason presented an industry overview at a city council meeting Monday night.

Worldwide passenger traffic was up 6.1 per cent in 2016 while North American flights went up 3.9 per cent.

Canadian traffic increased 16 per cent in the last six months and Vancouver passenger traffic was up 9.7 per cent increase.

Worldwide cargo traffic increases includes Asia Pacific with a 4.5 per cent rise and North America at 1.7 per cent.

And along with these increases came a general reduction in domestic fares from five to 10 per cent across Canada.

"We've been pushing the government really hard, federally and provincially," Gibson said.

"And we want to acknowledge the city and the province for their support as we focus on Calgary and Edmonton flights."

The main weakness of the airport as voiced by passengers was access from the parking lot to the airport.

"We are happy to say that this year, with council's support and provincial funding, this will be rectified," Mason said.

The provincial government has committed nearly $1.5 million to install an elevator between the two levels.

Completion of the project is expected at the end of the year.

The Prince George Airport Authority also completed negotiations in 2016 with unionized staff for another five years.

Capital projects totaled

$1.7 million and included commenced replacement of Apron 1, installation of new LED precision approach path indicators, upgrade to parking pay machines with chip readers (with support from the Northern Development Initiative Trust) and the addition of two fuel trucks.

"Our vision is to become the 'best in class' airport," Mason said.

Financial performance is already off to a good start to 2017.

"The financial crisis in 2009 really changed everything, but in 2011 everything turned around and has been since then," Gibson said.

But there are always challenges in federal government policy issues such as privatizing airports to pay for infrastructure promises outside of aviation, which will in turn cost Canadian travellers more money.

"This is one of the key issues, privatizing airports. This means costs would go up and there is no way around that," Gibson said.

And in terms of the refuelling market, future possibilities are in the works for YXS.

"It's taken a lot of years. We have invested in refueling which wasn't in the original plan," Mason said. "We have the infrastructure and we are continuing to look into this."

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