With the Breslau airport bleeding red ink – about $5.2 million in 2015 – Waterloo Region is hoping to find some answers as to what’s to be done with the facility via a master plan scheduled to be completed by year’s end.
Regional Coun. Tom Galloway is the chair of the planning and works committee and says there have been a number of changes at the Region of Waterloo International Airport over the past few years.
“With Nolinor leaving, and Chartright coming in. There are always ebbs and flows to the business, so we are trying to get back to the Master Plan and getting it going. We hope to have it done and in front of council by the end of the year,” he said.
Nolinor Aviation used to run flights to Iqaluit and Mary River in Nunavut, but the service ceased at the end of February. In 2015, Chartright, a charter plane and helicopter company, bought a hangar facility at the airport, expanding its operations to west of Toronto.
Some more of those changes include large renovation projects and capital projects.
“We have already made significant investments like extending runways, redoing the taxiway, building the terminal. Those are things that we have done, and we need to decide if we need more of those, or not. The master plan shows any capital improvements that may be required as well,” he said.
Galloway says that the airport master plan is separate from other plans the region puts together. There are many factors included in the final document that are out of the region’s control.
“The airport is a business operation, which makes it different than water supply or waste management and other services. Things happen in the business,” he said.
There are a few items that are already looking to be included in the 2016 update to the plan, including upgrades to the traffic control tower from Nav Canada, but first, the region wants to know what the public would like to see from the transportation hub.
“There will be two public input sessions late spring, and early fall, for the community to comment on what is being talked about, and even provide input on what will be talked about,” said Galloway. “So we’ll be talking about the kinds of services they want, where we want to focus, you know, what do we want to be when we grow up, kind of thing. We have international travel now – is that the kind of thing that we want to pursue more of, maybe more domestic travel, more charters, or maybe less of some things?”
The 2012 plan was a success, according to Galloway, and that can be seen in the stats coming from the airport.
“We had a record year for passenger service coming and going from the airport. We have been reaching some of the targets, but we haven’t been able to reach all, like with domestic departures,” he said, mentioning the cancellation of routes within the province. “We really would like to have an Ottawa departure. If the market is there for that, and we have had a couple of providers do that route in the past, but because they failed because their general operations was problematic. No airline just has one flight, so a couple of companies got in trouble on other flights, and had to close their operations down, and we lost our flights, which was actually profitable.”
Galloway spent Monday of this week in Toronto, attending an Aviation Summit for regional airport owners, and although his attendance isn’t directly tied to the building of the new master plan, it never hurts to hear about what other facilities are doing. Hearing from industry experts also adds to the value of the Toronto conference.
“We are always comparing notes and looking at things they are doing. We are run differently, by the municipality, whereas others are run by a private organization, but they all have their successes and their failures,” he said. “There is this huge economic development issue – that overarching umbrella of what they discuss here today – in terms of attracting investments to the broader area. Air travel is often an important element for a foreign investor, or somebody in Canada who says they want to locate a factory, office, or whatever in the area. What kind of travel is there? They may require parts, supplies, travel for employees and how convenient it is.”