Deer Lake airport already taking off in 2014

Paul
Paul Hutchings
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Deer Lake Regional Airport CEO Jamie Schwartz, right, makes a presentation at the airport's annual general meeting Wednesday night in which he said the airport set a record of total number of passengers during 2013, at about 310,000. Board members Leo Bruce, middle, and Walter Dominie listen in. 

If the first two months of this year are any indication, 2014 could be another record breaker for the Deer Lake Regional Airport.

Figures presented by airport representatives at the facility’s annual general meeting Wednesday night show January and February both had an average of about 20,000 passengers, up from the same time period last year.

It was just a piece of the overall good news presented Wednesday night at a Deer Lake hotel to a crowd of about 25.

Todd Lee, who is now in his sixth year as chairman of the airport’s board of directors, presented a healthy financial picture, which saw an increased operating revenue of just over $3.6 million and an operating profit of more than $345,000, almost $100,000 more than 2012’s figures.

“(This past year) was one of the best years we’ve had, I’m happy to say,” said Lee after the meeting. “We will keep adjusting to meet the needs of the community and the region.”

Airport CEO Jamie Schwartz gave a rundown of the past year. 2013 saw a record 310,000 passengers through the airport, the most in the facility’s history. July and August saw the most passenger traffic with about 40,000 each, and figures show

Deer Lake has the fourth busiest airport in Atlantic Canada, behind Halifax, St. John’s and Moncton.

“So we’re seeing fairly significant numbers for a region our size,” Schwartz told the crowd. “It’s also good news that we don’t really have any competition. You can’t really drive to any of the other markets.”

In a similar presentation to the one Schwartz gave recently to the Deer Lake Chamber of Commerce, he said extra routes added recently were a contributor to the airport’s success in 2013. WestJet added extra service last year to Toronto, Canadian North now flies to Northern Alberta seven days a week and charter service Sunwing began offering winter service to Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

Schwartz said commuting workers who are employed in areas like Alberta and Labrador are another factor in determining the airport’s success. Increased airline capacity and lower fares, which he compared to those of St. John’s, are also factors.

Transportation links to Labrador help, as well as does increased local and regional tourism. He said more than 350 direct, full time equivalent jobs are provided by the airport to the region, with a direct salary impact of about $12 million.

A total impact of 1,289 jobs are impacted in the community at large and the direct economic output of the airport employment base is $87.6 million annually.

The total economic output attributable to the airport is approximately $200 million annually. Improvements planned for this year include automated parking kiosks, more long term parking, updated flight information display screens and a water supply project, as well as exterior bench seating. The crowd was made up mainly of local municipal representatives and tourism operators. Deer Lake Mayor Dean Ball said he was pleased with what he heard.

“Any time you get 310,000 people coming through Deer Lake is always good,” he said. “They’re getting people out of the central region as well as up north and that means everything. I’m happy to see they’re continuing to do such a great job at the airport for this area.”

Deer Lake councillor Elmo Bingle, who is the western director for Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, said he was pleased that the good news was for everyone on the west coast.

Western DMO executive director Mark Lamswood said with Gros Morne Park being advertised more this year, it promises to be an excellent year for everyone.

Twitter: WStarDeerLake

Organizations: Deer Lake hotel, Halifax, Deer Lake Chamber of Commerce Dominican Republic

Geographic location: Deer Lake, Alberta, Labrador Atlantic Canada Moncton Toronto Cuba Gros Morne Park

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