Plans to expand airport put on hold

File photo by Heather Davidson

File photo by Heather Davidson

The Region of Waterloo International Airport’s master plan to expand is being put on hold until the airport is able to reach passenger capacity and earn more revenue.

Initially there were five options in the master plan for the airport. The first involved the airport becoming a reliever for Pearson International Airport in Toronto, which would cost approximately $500 million. The second was to leave the airport at status quo. There were two other options in between these which supported low and moderate growths.

According to the master plan update, 350 people attended public information sessions in February and April, and following this generated comments to the project team members.

45 per cent of comments formed the majority to back the status quo option.

“We are operating at about half of our passenger capacity with 138,000 passengers last year, and we could handle up to 275,000 passengers,” Sean Strickland, regional councillor for the City of Waterloo, explained.

City of Kitchener councillor Geoff Lorentz added, “We could probably put another 200,000 passengers through that terminal and not hire one additional person.”

Lorentz also sits on the aeronautical noise management committee at the airport.

In addition, former carrier Bearskin Airlines has departed, leaving the airport with fewer carriers than before. Now the airport’s only carriers are American Airlines, Sunwing Vacations and Westjet Airlines.

According to the airport’s manager Chris Wood, there are no business reasons to expand the airport at this point in time.

The airport is currently subsidized at $6 million by taxpayers, which the steering committee slowly hopes to alleviate by increasing business and reaching capacity.

Once the airport has finally reached capacity, another decision will hopefully be made in the next two to three years. However the decision will end up being made by a newly elected council.

According to Lorentz, the airport was recently ranked as the sixteenth busiest in all of Canada.Despite this, the airport still needs to increase their traffic and revenue if they are hoping to expand in the future.

Both Lorentz and Strickland stated that it is also important to make improvements to the business model by hiring some business development professionals to help increase revenue.

“I think if we all worked together with the private sector in the region, I think that we can have a great airport in the future,” said Lorentz.

Lorentz continued to say it is important to make sure the airport can line up more carriers and utilize the subsidy in order to help the airport pay for itself.

He finished, “We just need to keep moving forward and take a positive attitude with it.”

 

 

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