© Guardian photo
Doug Newson, centre, CEO of the Charlottetown Airport Authority, gives P.E.I. MP Gail Shea and David McKenna, chair of the authority's board of directors, a tour of the new baggage handling area while his guests display pictures of the new queuing area and the new entrance for departing passengers.
The Charlottetown Airport has grown in size in hopes that it will grow in passengers and airline traffic.
The airport authority unveiled the newly-finished and expanded terminal on Wednesday at a press conference that brought politicians out from all three levels of government.
Over the past three years, the airport authority has sunk $7 million into renovations both inside and outside the terminal building. The terminal expansion alone cost $3.8 million. The federal government contributed $1.2 million from the Gateways and Border Crossings Fund while the province chipped in $1.15 million.
"We've got brand new counter space and much more (room in the) queuing area to make it a much smoother travelling experience but it also allows us to have further growth down the road,'' said Doug Newson, CEO of the airport authority. "This expansion should keep us going for the next 10 to 15 years.''
The airport also redid the departure lounge, adding a restaurant, and created new airline offices and baggage handling facilities.
It brings an end to two years of work at the airport - work that included a $4-million rehabilitation to the airport's secondary 5,000-foot runway and expanding the short-term parking lot.
And it was recently announced that the airport is partnering with the provincial government and City of Charlottetown on converting the T-intersection at the entrance to the airport into a roundabout this spring.
"The investment in this facility will provide a significant return to the province going forward,'' said David McKenna, chair of the airport authority's board of directors.
Passenger traffic at the airport continues to grow. The airport saw more than 297,000 passengers in 2012, a four per cent increase over 2011 and an 87 per cent increase since 2002.
Newson said projections indicate traffic will continue to increase.
"If you look worldwide and across the country, traffic is up around the same number, around four or five per cent, this year. People like to travel.''
Egmont MP Gail Shea said strong numbers at the airport spill out into the economy.
"It will strengthen our economy and our tourism,'' Shea said. "The use of the Charlottetown Airport has been steadily increasing so it's an investment that makes perfect sense.''
With all that extra space, Newson would love nothing more than to add to the carriers that serve the airport. Air Canada and WestJet service the market year-round while Sunwing and Delta operate on a seasonal basis. The challenge is that it is cheaper for passengers and airlines to fly in and out of Moncton and Halifax than come to Charlottetown.
"We're in negotiations with airlines all the time in an effort to bring more services here for Islanders and tourism,'' Newson said. "We're not announcing anything today but, two years ago if we had an airline approach us and want to come in, we would have had a difficult time accommodating that.''
The next project an expensive rehabilitation of the main runway will likely happen in another six years.