St. John’s International Airport is poised for another record year of passenger traffic, with an 8.4 per cent increase in travel over 2011’s total at the same time last year.
From the beginning of January to the end of June this year, there have been 660,666 arrivals and departures at the airport, compared with 609,417 over the same period in 2011, which is the busiest year on record for the airport so far, with about 1.4 million people travelling through the airport.
Every month this year so far has seen an increase in passengers, with the biggest bump coming in the first four months of the year; each month from January to April saw double-digit percentage increases. February saw 14.5 per cent more passengers this year over last, April had 13 per cent more passengers, and January and March each saw an increase of 10.2 per cent.
Marie Manning, the airport authority’s director of marketing and community relations, said the strong St. John’s economy is the reason for the increase.
“That’s led to a lot more business travel,” she said. “And also because our economy’s really strong, there’s a high level of disposable income within our community, so more people are travelling for leisure as well.”
Combine that with rising tourism numbers over the last couple of years, and the higher traffic numbers at the airport aren’t a surprise, she said. St. John’s is also an increasingly popular conference destination she said, which is helping to spread traffic out beyond the busy May to August season.
“We’re seeing a lot of growth in April, September, October,” she said, calling it the “shoulder season.”
Because of the demand, Air Canada, WestJet and United Airlines have been responding by increasing capacity, especially in the summer months, either by using bigger airplanes with more seats or increasing the number of runs to the most popular destinations.
The airport is in the midst of a $150-million expansion, which is proceeding on schedule, said Manning.
“The road is being constructed right now, the new access road which will go further up Portugal Cove Road, that has commenced,” she said. “We’ve also commenced clearing for the long-term parking lot expansion, and we’re also clearing some area on the east end of the apron, which is close to Cougar Helicopters. That’s being cleared now to extend and expand our ramp area on the terminal building’s east end.”
The ramp area and the long-term parking is scheduled to be completed by the end of August, and the road will be completed by the end of the year.
“Once the ramp and the parking lot are completed, then we’ll be able to start the construction on the east end on the terminal building, so that’s scheduled to start in September,” she said.