Growing Pains: Why the Fredericton International Airport needs a terminal expansion
Six years of record-breaking passenger growth. Job growth of 10 per cent every year for the past three years. A new air carrier, and a record number of direct sun destinations scheduled for next winter.
The Fredericton International Airport has seen an enviable string of success over the past six years, bringing in the air services our community needs and generating considerable economic stimulus along the way. Back in 2011 independent consultant InterVISTAS measured the airport’s impact to be 586 jobs and $24-million in GDP (including direct and indirect impacts), and we’re on track to bring 1,015 jobs and $41.5-million in GDP to New Brunswick by 2030.
A good problem to have?
As anyone who’s been here to catch a flight at peak times knows all too well, though, this success is creating some challenges.
Fredericton International Airport’s terminal building was built in the 1960’s and subsequent renovations have expanded that building to accommodate up to 200,000 passengers a year.
One of our earlier terminals.
In 2015, the airport saw almost 350,000 passengers.
Operating in an old building creates a lot of issues: we’re running out of space to accommodate new carriers, especially during the sun destination season. The heating and cooling systems are antiquated and require upgrading. Seating is limited in the departures lounge, as are food service options. There is just one security line, and no space to open a second during peak travel times.
Although the airport authority continues to work closely with our partners to make the building as efficient and comfortable as possible for our travellers and the 269 people employed at the airport, the bottom line is that our terminal is operating at 75% over the capacity it was designed to accommodate.
Sure, having too much traffic is a good problem to have, but the airport authority wants to provide an efficient, comfortable, pleasant experience for our staff, business partners, and travellers – and we know they feel the same way.
Here we grow!
The airport authority has completed design work for a much-needed terminal expansion, which would alleviate the current congestion and see a renovated terminal building designed to handle 500,000 passengers a year. FIAA has secured its portion of the funding for the terminal expansion project and is seeking the support of partners at the provincial and federal levels of government to secure the remainder needed.
The project is ready to go to tender, and construction would create 572 FTE jobs.
Benefits to travellers when the project is complete include:
- Food service & café area
- Children’s play area
- Additional seating
- Additional washrooms
- Shorter exterior distances to airplanes
- More natural light
The building will also be more environmentally friendly:
- more energy efficient
- geothermal heating & cooling source
- higher building envelope insulation
- LED lighting
But wait – there’s just one last hurdle…
The terminal expansion is going to cost $30-million. That’s a bargain, because instead of constructing a new terminal the authority has chosen to expand and renovate the current building, meaning that there is no construction needed to move the apron and runways.
The Fredericton International Airport Authority has been extremely well-managed financially since taking over the management and operation of the airport in 2011. As a non-share corporation, we are run like a business but all savings are re-invested in the organization. We’re able to fund one third of this project ourselves (that’s $10-million) and have already invested $2-million in the design – which is now shovel-ready.
We’re asking the provincial and federal governments to partner with us on this project, and it’s a solid investment: within six years, the governments will see their investment returned to them in the form of tax revenues. Construction alone will create 572 FTE jobs. And the benefit to our province of having a modern airport greeting investors, tourists, and dignitaries to our capital city cannot be overstated.
Why doesn’t the Fredericton airport qualify for Federal funding?
When airports were divested in the 1990’s, 26 airports across Canada were deemed nationally significant and therefore included in the National Airport System (NAS) and the land was leased to airport authorities for operation. The airport sizes range in traffic from Toronto Pearson with 41 million to Gander with 150,000 passengers.
There are 6 out of the 26 NAS airports in Canada that are located on federal land and have less than 525,000 passengers: London, Charlottetown, Saint John, Gander, Fredericton and Prince George.
Due to a quirk of Federal funding policies, these small NAS airports are excluded for funds that are available to other small airports.
The FIAA continues to work with our elected representatives to identify funding opportunities to enable this long overdue project to move forward, and we are confident that with their continued support we will be able to do so. We encourage our travellers to get in touch with their MP and MLA to let them know they support the Fredericton International Airport terminal expansion as well.