By Marilyn Zink
Expansion plans are underway for Nanaimo Airport with the addition of new services like non-stop flights to Edmonton starting Dec.15.
The new route offers non-stop daily access to Edmonton and increases access for island residents along with connection options for Calgary and Vancouver.
“It’s going to be good for tourism coming to Nanaimo,” says John Craig, chairman of Nanaimo Airport.
“A lot of people in Edmonton look at Nanaimo as paradise.”
Encore will operate the Q-400 plane with 78 seats departing for Alberta.
The strong growth in passenger numbers has led to an increase in the new service but has also increased pressure on the airport for more space.
“We’re going to have to expand our building, we are jammed,” says Craig. “We are taking steps to expand the tarmac service and have more room for planes to park. We want to expand the security check in area. All of the infrastructure is pressed to capacity.”
Craig says the airport is six years ahead of predictions.
“We are the fastest growing airport, percentage wise, in Canada,” he said during the airport’s annual open house Wednesday.
“The rest of the industry is growing at 1 ½ to 2 percent. We’re growing at 15%. It’s unbelievable.”
He says its due to the support from surrounding island communities from Cobble Hill to Qualicum, as well as the people working at the airport.
“The Nanaimo airport team is one of the best teams I’ve worked with,” says Michael Hooper, CEO and President of Nanaimo Airport.
Craig says the Nanaimo Airport has instrument landing systems in place that increase reliability for weather conditions and make the airport an attractive option for increased flights.
He says the expansion is projected to cost $8 million and will be done in phases.
“The expansion, were doing it without any grants,” says Craig. “It’s because of all the support we’re getting locally.”
The expansion is planned to start in late summer or early fall of 2016.