In addition to the growth of the community, North Peace Airport Services Director Moira Green attributes the increase to residents having more choice and a “competitive fare environment”.
“Generally in the summertime we see less traffic than we do in the winter, because of the way our communities function,” she explains. “Our two legacy airlines have been, I think, busy because of the added competition. I think that having a third airline has been good for everyone.”
WestJet Encore first touched down in Fort St. John on June 24, and brought with it discount promotional prices on its direct flights to Calgary and Vancouver, which prompted Air Canada to drop its prices in turn. Green believes more people are feeling encouraged to use their local airport, instead of heading outside of the region to travel.
“I think that the competition in the market has brought prices to a place where we are no longer in competition with Grande Prairie and Prince George, and that people see the value of using their own regional airport,” she argues. “For $50 or $60 a leg, you’re not going to drive five hours.
Keeping the traffic up is the next challenge for the airport – one that Green says is already being worked on. Renovations to expand the parking lot and install a new parking system are already underway, and more room has been added to the holding room in the terminal.
“That’s given us more capacity and some more room so that our airline partners don’t have to worry about how they schedule their flights,” maintains Green. “For instance, if one of our airline partners adds a flight, they know that we have the capacity to park their passengers, to move their passengers through security and into the hold room, and get them on and off their plane on time so that they can come and go on time.”
The North Peace Regional Airport expects traffic to continue to increase for the foreseeable future.