Fort St. John airport expects more passengers, plans for runway upgrade

Despite a dip in 2016, passenger traffic at the North Peace Regional Airport is predicted to continue climbing to new records in 2019.

The airport saw a 6% drop in passenger counts in 2016 due to the downturn in the energy sector, but has been on a rebound in the two years since. Passenger counts climbed to a record-high of 268,000 in 2018, and is forecast to grow by at least another 3% this year to 276,000 passengers.

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“I believe we’ll be probably significantly ahead of that,” Gordon Duke, the airport’s managing director, told city councillors on Monday.

“It’s a good trend that our airport is undergoing.”

The airport is looking ahead to 2020 when it plans to start upgrades to Runway 03/21, its primary runway, which is at the end of its service life, according to Miranda Flury, director of strategy, capital, and planning for the airport.

The project is estimated to cost $18 million, and the airport currently has $250,000 in support from the Northern Development Initiative Trust. The airport is conducting a socio-economic impact study to help develop a business case for further government funding.

“It’s incredibly important to the operations of our airport,” Flury said.

That said, the airport does have some sense of how big of an economic driver it is for the city and region.

Airport operations employ 385 people, according to Duke, and is responsible for roughly $32 million in GDP, $22.5 million in household incomes, and $10.4 million in taxes.

“It’s a real driver for the region,” Duke said.

Airlines and airport stakeholders will be consulted early to navigate the change in airport operations that will be needed when construction takes place, Duke said, predicting a minor impact on operations that will be weather dependent. 

The airport continues to work with Central Mountain Air to restore direct flights to Edmonton, while flights to Vancouver and Calgary remain strong, Duke said.

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca. 

© Copyright Alaska Highway News

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