More people + more money = capital improvements
An Air Canada passenger jet taxis to the terminal as two Westjet planes taxi towards the runway Monday at St. John’s International Airport. A backlog of passengers caused by the weekend's fog was finally cleared up Monday.—Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
Its been a good year for the St. John’s International Airport. Numbers are up across the board; capital improvements are moving from the drawing board to shovels in the ground, there’s a surplus and all indications point to these trends continuing.
It’s hard to get much better than that, said Darlene Whalen, chairwoman of the Airport Authority’s board of directors
The authority held it’s annual general meeting Wednesday evening and gave updates on both its financial and passenger numbers from 2011 and the status of upcoming infrastructure projects.
Whalen started off by giving an update on passenger numbers — because everything else about the airport is tied to that.
Passenger travel reached a record high of 1.4 million people in 2011 — an increase of four per cent from 2010.
Revenues were also up, primarily from airport improvement fee revenue (a fee charged to every passenger leaving St. John’s), which was up by $1.9 million. Other factors like an increase in non-aeronautical business and an increase in military traffic from the U.S. also contributed to the increase in revenues.
Overall the airport found itself with a net surplus of about $4 million. As the airport is a not-for-profit organization, that money will be reinvested.
This is good financial legs to be standing on, but that’s no reason to be complacent, said John Chapman, chairman and head of the finance and audits committee.
“We’ve got a board who is very concerned about making sure we maintain financial sustainability, and even though we’re planning these expansions and they look very aggressive and impressive that we’re dedicated to making sure that we’re not going to leave a financial albatross on future generations,” Chapman said.
Passenger numbers are also looking good for this year.
Traffic is already up 12 per cent from the same quarter last year, whereas the airport had expected an increase of only 2 1/2 per cent.
It’s a huge increase that nobody seems to have an explanation for.
“For any airport in this country that would be a significant number. For us its significant in so far that we’ve never seen a growth rate in that range,” Whalen said.
“It’s a reflection really and truly we think of what’s happening in the economy,” surmised Chapman
The airport is also expecting significant capital improvements to get started as well this year.
The installation of the much-anticipated Category III Instrument Landing System is set to start in early July and be completed by the fall. The second and final phase of that system will be completed by fall 2013.
The airport estimates about 100,000 passengers are affected annually by the fog in St. John’s. The new landing system will help more airplanes land in lower visibility.
The biggest change locals can expect to see at the airport this year is the change in entrances to the airport.
The new entrance will be across from Viscount Street on Portugal Cove Road while the current entrance will become a service road.
There will also be a new parking lot added.
The new road and lot are both parts of Phase 1 of a larger expansion of the airport that will see the terminal expand by more than 180,000 square feet between this year and 2016.
The ultimate goal being to prepare for 2020 when passenger numbers are expected to reach almost two million annually.
The layout of the airport was built to accommodate 900,000 passengers.