Nanaimo Airport seeing record growth

Passenger numbers climb as Nanaimo Airport sets its sights on expanded air service.

After a record-setting month of August, the Nanaimo Airport is looking to expand air services, particularly to northern B.C. and northern Alberta.

Joe Burnett, the Town of Ladysmith representative on the Nanaimo Airport Commission (NAC), and airport president and CEO Mike Hooper provided an update on operations at the Nanaimo Airport  (YCD) to Ladysmith council Sept. 17. Council heard that 2011 was a record year.

“We have a growing passenger base, and the millionth passenger between 2006 and July 2012 just passed through the gates recently in July,” said Burnett.

So far in 2012, the airport has seen 13.5-per-cent growth in the first quarter and 10.7-per-cent growth in the second quarter. August 2012 was a record-setting month, with nearly 20,000 passengers.

There have been $26.8 million in recent expansions and improvements at the airport, including a larger terminal, more parking and faster passenger screening and baggage handling, extended runways to accommodate commercial jet landings, high-intensity runway lights, lead-in lights and a new instrument landing system.

“YCD is now 99-per-cent weather-reliable with the new instrument landing system, and we are confident that we can service the flying public through any months in the winter time,” said Burnett.

Burnett estimates that the Nanaimo Airport contributes 700 full-time jobs directly and indirectly in the region.

“The airport is an economic driver in the region, with an expectation of creating 1,600 direct and indirect jobs by 2026,” he said. “We also think by 2026, we will be generating $121 million to support the economy in the area.”

Looking ahead, Burnett said the NAC is considering land development.

“There’s a growing opportunity to better utilize the airport lands for aviation-related uses,” he said. “The NAC plans to enter into an accord with the Nanaimo Regional District for land use at YCD.”

Noting that the airport’s millionth passenger works in Fort McMurray, Mayor Rob Hutchins asked if there are any opportunities for direct flights to that area.

“We’re working aggressively in northern Alberta and northern B.C.,” said Hooper. “We’re meeting with the human resources group that represents petroleum interests in northern Alberta, and we would love to see either direct charters or working with an air carrier that we currently have to get into that area.”