FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The past few years have been a rollercoaster in terms of passenger numbers states Gordon Duke, Managing Director of the North Peace Airport yet as of 2017 there has been a 6 percent increase.
With FSJ having an estimated population of 20,000 residents, the airport saw 268,000 passengers taking commercial flights in 2018 which is a significant number shared Duke.
Duke goes on to share that YXJ is working above capacity for this catchment area and the numbers listed are just a tally from commercial flights. He then explains that ‘workplace charters’ drives another significant amount of passengers. Although they don’t go through the terminal building the airport benefits from those passengers contributing to the airport by spending money in the terminal before their departure. This helps contributes to the overall health of the operations.
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A brief timeline by Duke outlining the past three years shows the rise, decline and rise again of passenger traffic;
- – 2014 – West Jet Encore started up and there was a 36 percent increase in passengers
- – 2015 – Reported minimal growth
- – 2016 – Economic slowdown hit FSJ and there was a drop of ridership by 6 percent
- – 2017 – Reported a full recovery plus more of any loss over the past three years, the health of the airport recovered over the previous years and this shows the community is coming back.
“Lots of positive economic activity over 2018, which helps drive business traffic, fuels a sense of optimism in the region and that drives leisure traffic that might not have been in 2015/16.” Duke further expresses his point by saying that people were not confident in the stability of their work, yet optimism is returning to the leisure market and people are not hesitating to go on vacations.
Duke goes on to say the airport can handle the capacity and does now want to bring on any unnecessary infrastructure yet at some point in the next three to five years would like to expand the terminal to provide a larger holding room and security area. In the meantime, Duke says they are lucky to have a pop-up kiosk in the holding room that can provide food and beverage to travellers waiting in the current holding room which is a positive addition to the operation.
Duke recognizes at the peak of activity the airport is a busy place and that is when an airport feels best. With the structured schedule of the airport 4/5 flights go to Vancouver and 2 to Calgary, in one connection you can go where you want to be with a direct flight.
“I am impressed and proud of the airport staff and the frontline staff, they take pride in their contribution to the community and keep the airport operational through some challenging weather,” said Duke
There is a modest approach in projecting passenger growth based off of airline partners, Duke is anticipating a 3 percent increase for 2018.