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Deer Lake airport’s operating surplus nearly doubles

Passenger traffic always tells the real story of an airport, so it should be little surprise Deer Lake Regional Airport’s finances are in excellent shape.

Jamie Schwartz, Deer Lake Regional Airport’s president and CEO, gives his report during the airport authority’s annual general meeting Thursday evening.

Earlier this year, the Deer Lake Regional Airport Authority announced it had set a new record for passenger traffic for the third straight year with 336,789 people coming and going through the airport in 2014.

At the authority’s annual general meeting Thursday evening, president and chief executive officer Jamie Schwartz said the increased passengers has resulted in an operating surplus of $650,297 at the end of the last fiscal year.

By comparison, the operating surplus from the previous year was $345,714.

Deer Lake’s airport has come a long way since the authority took it over from Transport Canada in 1998. As Schwartz noted during his presentation at the meeting, it was typical for the federal agency to run deficits in the hundreds of thousands of dollars even in the best of times when it was running it.

In fact, excluding Halifax, St. John’s and Moncton, Deer Lake was the busiest airport in Atlantic Canada in 2014.

“Sometimes, we don’t get credit for being as busy as we are for the region that we serve,” said Schwartz.

Deer Lake relies heavily on tourist traffic, as well as people who commute to Labrador and elsewhere on the mainland for work. While tourism remains a strong factor, recent setbacks in the oil and gas sector are a major concern.

The numbers so far in 2015 do not show any stoppage in growth for the Deer Lake airport. Passenger traffic for both January and February 2015 have surpassed the same months in 2014.

“That’s surprising to a lot of people,” said Schwartz. “It’s surprising to us as well that we are still moving that amount of traffic because we are noticing that some of the numbers are falling off (on flights typically carrying commuting workers).”

Schwartz said there have been increases in the number of people flying to the Muskrat Falls construction project in Labrador, which he noted has yet to reach full capacity.

Twitter: @WS_GaryKean

***Edited March 17****

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