Despite an economy that some consider grounded, the CEO of the Regina International Airport seems to be optimistic things will take off in the future.
Speaking at the airport’s annual general meeting, Dick Graham outlined how the Regina Airport Authority is eyeing a new hotel to be built at the site.
“There is a great need for that kind of service. We’re well positioned, but we’re not going to do it wrong,” he said.
Graham suggested the interest is already there from companies ready to build, saying that they’re almost ahead of the airport in that respect. If a new hotel does go up, he said the intent is to have it connect directly to the air terminal instead of having a shuttle.
He didn’t offer a firm timeline as to when a project like that could start.
In the more immediate future, Graham said they continue their talks with major airline carriers trying to secure new flights, especially to locations in the United States after routes to Chicago and Denver were recently cancelled.
“We know that many of the big airlines are setting their schedules for the fall right now. We’re working with them on that to try and get in,” he explained. “But once they make that decision it can happen very quickly so to put it in perspective if an airline says ‘we want to be in, we want to offer a route’ it can happen within a couple of months.”
Discussions are also happening with some of the low-cost carriers. One of those, NewLeaf, previously announced it would be offering flights in and out of Regina at a reduced price. Flights for as low as $89 were to begin being offered this past February, but a review in the way the Canadian Transportation Agency handled license requirements resulted in a suspension of the service.
NewLeaf recently announced on its website the agency completed its review and the carrier is cleared for takeoff.
While there’s no word when it may be ready to launch, Graham said the airport is ready to flip the switch on the newcomer.
He said there’s a strong business case for companies to fly to the Queen City based on consistent passenger growth over the last number of years.That growth didn’t happen in 2015, when a slight dip of 0.5 per cent occurred, which Graham called more of flat growth due to rounding.
A total of 1,255,957 passengers came through the airport last year. By comparison, that’s 6,620 fewer passengers than 2014 when 1,262,577 travellers came through.
Graham said he wasn’t surprised with those numbers but instead was delighted, clarifying the downward impact of the economy wasn’t felt as hard at the Regina airport as it could have been when one compares airports in other regions across the country.
Trans-border passenger counts dropped 32.6 per cent, but domestic passenger growth actually increased 4.2 per cent from 2014, while international passengers jumped 11.6 per cent.
In 2016, the airport is predicting growth of two per cent, or about 25,000 more passengers than 2015.