And the airlines are beginning to notice.
The board of the Charlottetown Airport Authority presented its 2011 annual report Tuesday (May 8) and it was news that would be welcome to any stakeholder, although there are big challenges in terms of infrastructure going forward.
CEO Doug Newson said January to March traffic at the airport is up almost nine per cent with another 12 per cent bump in April alone, bringing the total to date to roughly 10 per cent.
“I don’t want to make any promises but it would be nice to get to that 300,000 level this year. This summer will tell,’’ Newson said, referring to the number of passengers the airport hopes to put through.
Last year, the airport moved 285,000 passengers through the terminal, a drop of about one per cent from 2010. Keep in mind 2010 was up double digits from the year before. The annual number has climbed every year from 160,000 in 2002.
Financially, the airport brought in $590,000 more in revenue than it thought it would, mainly due to the acquisition of aviation fuel operations (where aircraft are refueled) and an increased passenger facility fee. It also spent $195,199 more than budgeted, costs associated with aviation fuel operations and with increased heating and fuel costs.
The airport is also in the midst of $10 million of upgrades - the short-term parking lot has grown from 90 spaces to 155, there is a new security check area, an additional 5,000 square feet of new space at the airline check-in counters and a new entrance.
The airlines are starting to notice the investment the authority is making, with the help of the federal and provincial governments.
Air Canada is adding capacity, bringing in 75-seat aircraft as opposed to the traditional 50-seaters while WestJet is at least entertaining the idea of adding a direct flight to Orlando, Fla., for that key family trip market. Don’t look for that direct flight to DisneyWorld this year though.
“2011 was a very progressive and noteworthy year for the board, for the Charlottetown Airport Authority,’’ said board chair David McKenna. “The work that we are undertaking will not only go to enhance our passenger experience here but will provide the ability of the airport to grow and prosper in the next decade and beyond.’’
But there are challenges ahead. Newson figures the airport will need to spend another $40 million over the next decade. The main runway will need upgrades in the next few years and the adjacent business park needs work in order to expand, to cite just two examples.
“Long-term infrastructure is probably our single biggest challenge we face,’’ Newson said. “A major priority for the airport is to establish some form of capital program and, obviously, the climate right now is not great for that. It is an issue.’’