FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Despite the vaccine rollout in 2021, the North Peace Regional Airport says that there wasn’t a significant increase in passengers travelling recreationally

NPRA Managing Director Mike Karsseboom says that the airport has seen a good amount of travel for business through the year, but not as many leisure travellers.

“We went into 2021 with the rollout of the vaccines with a lot of hope, but we didn’t see a result in increased travel that much. We still had really good business travel.”

“Workers for Site C, the oil patch, liquid natural gas, and for those natural resources. We’re still very short on the leisure travel that we rely so much upon,” Karsseboom said.

The NPRA plans on seeing 180,000 passengers in 2022, substantially below the planned amount in 2019.

Despite the lack of recreational travellers, Karsseboom remains optimistic going into the new year.

“I’m certainly hoping what we’re hearing in the news is that this is a quick peak and a quick drop to the number of cases in this particular variant. So we can actually start travelling a little bit more normally, as we had in the past,” Karsseboom said.

“It’s really all just up in the air. We have to see how things roll out,” Karsseboom continued.

The airport has been seeing delays and cancellations recently due to a lack of ground staff and extreme weather, which is being felt in other parts of the country.

“I know that at the airports that feed us specifically Vancouver, and Calgary, they are having difficulty with the same thing with ground staff that are providing services to the aircraft on the ground to get those aircraft out of their parking spots in a timely manner to get them up here. We’re seeing a lot of delays based on that as well,” Karsseboom explained.

Thanks to funding from the federal government’s Airport Capital Assistance Program, the North Peace Regional Airport was able to completely resurface its secondary runway in 2021.

Karsseboom says the resurfaced runway should serve the NPRA for about twenty to twenty-five years.

“It was a full reconstruction. They removed all the old pavement, they repaired the subgrade, put in a new grade age, new pavement, new lights, it was just a complete rehabilitation of that entire piece of infrastructure,” Karsseboom stated.

“That runway was still usable, but it was in pretty rough shape. The asphalt was becoming close to the end of life. It was time to rehabilitate that and now it’s just a great smooth surface,” Karsseboom continued.

The airport also received funding from the Northern Development Initiative Trust for the resurfacing project. Karsseboom says that while the airport hasn’t finalized the total costs for the project, he estimates the cost to have been about 14 to 15 million dollars.

“That is a significant capital investment in the airport and it has made it better for the airlines,” Karsseboom said.

According to the government’s website, the Airport Capital Assistance Program has been funding improvement projects for regional airports since 1995. To date, the government has invested $1.12 billion for 1,088 projects at 199 airports.