Airport passenger traffic up 6 per cent in 2012

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
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The St. John’s International Airport Authority  announced Wednesday that passenger traffic was up last year, despite an ongoing strike by workers that began Sept. 11, 2012. Wednesday’s snow slowed road traffic on the northeast Avalon and made walking a slippery proposition. But by mid-afternoon air traffic at the airport was getting back on schedule. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Passenger traffic through St. John’s International Airport reached nearly 1.5 million people in 2012, a six per cent increase over 2011.

The airport authority released the figures Wednesday in a news release that noted the St. John’s airport, with about 1,450,000 passengers last year, is now the 10th-busiest airport in the country.

Keith Collins, president and CEO of the airport authority, called 2012, the busiest year on record, “another solid year.”

“It just keeps on growing,” he said.

“This kind of growth at the airport here in St. John’s really speaks to the strength of this region’s economy, because it’s a very strong link between how an economy’s doing and the demand for air travel. So when the economy’s doing well, the demand for air travel is up, and I think it works the other way as well, that if demand for air travel is up, it benefits the economy.”

About 85 airport maintenance workers have been on strike since Sept. 11, which may have slowed growth, acknowledged Collins, with labour-sympathetic convention organizers cancelling conferences and travellers bypassing the

St. John’s airport in favour of Gander.

But he said any effect caused by the strike has been minimal.

“The fourth quarter was up almost four per cent over the fourth quarter of 2011,” he said.

“We processed 330,000 passengers in the fourth quarter, so there was strong growth there. … I wouldn’t say there was no effect, but the effect of those sorts of decisions has been fairly modest when you’re looking at four per cent growth in the fourth quarter.”

Chris Bussey, a negotiator for the union that represents the striking workers, said it was “perplexing” that the airport saw a record number of passengers last year but is putting “money and time and effort into fighting the employees” on strike, rather than reaching a new agreement.

“We know the airport is doing really well. The province is doing well,” he said. “We don’t think it’s in spite of the employees that the airport is doing well; we think we contribute to that as well, and we want to see some gains and be respected for the work we do as well.”

Collins said the airport is projecting growth of about 2 1/2 to three per cent in 2013.

“The airlines are continuing to make new investments,” said Collins, pointing out Air Canada’s regular flight to London’s Heathrow Airport will begin in April this year rather than its usual May start.

WestJet expanded its regular Orlando service from 12 weeks to 28 weeks, and Sun Charters is bumping up its number of seats to Florida and the Caribbean this year by 54 per cent.

“The airlines see St. John’s as a good market. They keep on investing in terms of additional flights, additional capacity, larger aircraft, extended seasons and so on,” Collins said.

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

Organizations: International Airport, Air Canada, Heathrow Airport WestJet

Geographic location: London, Orlando, Florida Caribbean

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  • ClearSkies
    February 07, 2013 - 14:24

    To be quite honest it is time that we moved St. John's airport to some place in CBS where there is little or no fog. Torbay operations are constantly hampered by low ceilings and fog. Wasting money on installing a Cat 111 runway will do nothing more than waste money. Less than 25% of the aircraft landing at YYT have category 111 installed and even some of those have crew members not qualified. Crosswinds over 10kts nullify cat 111 anyway and Torbay is notorious for winds. Buy some land and build a decent airport in a mostly fog free area.

    • david
      February 07, 2013 - 16:48

      "...to some place....where there is little or no fog.". Well, Clearskies, I'll let you in on a little secret. That place already exists, and has for many decades. It is already in operation, it's long been completely paid for, it has proven itself ot be an incredibly well-run and and reliable airport. So we could have saved all those tens of millions of dolalrs spent upgrading an airport that simply cannot EVER work, and instead paid for more nurses, doctors, teachers, elder care facilities or whatever. That mythical place of legends......far beyond the range of the Gulliver's cab....this place is called ....."Gander".

    • ClearSkies
      February 07, 2013 - 21:20

      David. You may be right about Gander but who wants to drive from St. John's to Gander every time he wants to get on an airplane? 30 mins to somewhere in CBS where it is usually fog free makes sense.

    • david
      February 08, 2013 - 10:02

      Ummmm...it's not what you "want" that decides this, otherwise we'd all have our own free spaceship, wouldn't we? The constraints of the "real" world limit what you get, and St. John's alweays was, still is, and will always be one of the singlemeost idiotically unfeasible place on the face of the Earth to have a commercial airport. That's why government, back in the day when it had the fortitude to make quasi-sensible decisions, chose Gander....d'uh! For you economically-devoid eejots to start calling to build another new townie-convenient airport is simply a testament to your complete lack of rational, reality-based mindpower, genetic reliance on "free" governemnt intervention, and completely inflated sense of self-importance. Read more, post less.

  • N Bullet
    February 07, 2013 - 13:01

    We need another US carrier in here. Then I'll buy that things are better. Hopefully Delta at some point will add a run from JFK. I'm rather sick of dealing with United and i'd rather walk than give Air Canada a penny.