Charters to all over: Airport reports growth

A flight route from Cranbrook to Spokane is a possibility in the future, according to the Cranbrook’s airport manager.

A flight route from Cranbrook to Spokane is a possibility in the future, and in fact a charter is a possibility now, according to the Cranbrook’s airport manager.

“I could activate it tomorrow, I just need a little incentive to throw on the table,” Tristan Chernove, airport manager at Canadian Rockies International Airport, said at the May 26 council meeting. Mayor Wayne Stetski had asked what the chances of setting up the flight would be.

Chernove said Pacific Coastal is licensed to fly charters into the U.S., and Integra Air will fly charters to Spokane and other locations, but the carriers would need more reassurance of passengers before committing to a flight. He said they would have to figure what the community would be willing to put forward.

Chernove also spoke to recent success at the airport, where passengers traffic is up 11 per cent over last year.

He said the increase could in part be attributed to increasingly competitive airfare, an incrementally maturing tourism environment in the East Kootenay and continued refinement of the airport’s multi-media marketing and awareness initiatives.

The new non-stop flight to Kelowna makes up about one per cent of that growth.

January and March saw the biggest increase with passenger numbers increasing to 10,556 in 2014 from 9,231 in 2013 in January, and 11,390 from 10,154 in March.

Since January, there has also been a weekly charter to Kearl Lake, north of Fort McMurray, operated by Sunwest Charter to transport workers. Integra Air has also provided three golf charters to St. Eugene from Fort McMurray during the first quarter.

Chernove said the airport has also been looking at ways to communicate with the public. One of those ways is a website feature that helps people assess the cost of airline travel compared other forms of transportation.

“It’s figuring out how much it’s actually costing in when it comes to mileage on your vehicle, fuel, parking, hotels, things like that,” Chernove said, adding that he’s heard criticism that if the flights end up costing more than the alternative, it won’t be good for the airport.

“I said, ‘well actually it is good,’ because if people can give me that, I can go back to the airlines and say ‘you’re missing it by $75, this doesn’t work’ — that’s a good tool.”

Chernove said year end passenger numbers are projected at four per cent above budget.

He also spoke about some of the projects at the airport.

The largest project planned is the airfield electrical infrastructure budgeted at just over $1 million. Chernove said that Transport Canada Airport Capital Assistance Program advised that the project won’t proceed in 2014. The program has acknowledged that the project is eligible and intend to fund it for 2015 or 2016 verbally.

Another $80,000 has been budgeted for the Concrete Apron Rehab. An assessment of the condition of the concrete apron has been completed and forwarded to Transport Canada’s program as well. Discussions are underway between the airport and Transport Canada on the eligibility of the apron rehabilitation. The apron is the area of the airport where airplanes are parked, unloaded, reloaded, refuelled or boarded.

There are also plans to redo the apron sidewalk at a cost of $15,000 and a parking lot expansion at a cost of $20,000. The contract for the parking lot expansion has been awarded to McElhanney Consulting Ltd.