Airport sets traffic records
Winnipeg outperforms North American counterparts
Fri Feb 1 2008
By Larry Kusch
WINNIPEG'S airport set new freight and passenger traffic records last year -- bucking a North American trend that saw volumes fall, the Winnipeg Airports Authority (WAA) said Thursday.
The WAA, which manages the airport, said Thursday the unprecedented traffic levels sent 2007 airport authority revenues soaring well above projected levels.
"In both passenger and cargo, we continue to outperform most other airports (in North America). We rank fairly high," WAA president and CEO Barry Rempel said.
He said in an interview the continued expansion of passenger traffic is putting additional strain on an airport terminal that is already jam-packed.
A new $585-million terminal is to open at the end of next year.
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Its launch can't come soon enough for the WAA, which is already having to say no to carriers who want to add planes at peak arrival and departure times.
"We cannot add another aircraft into those morning peaks," Rempel said. "So we are clearly constrained."
The solid local airport performance comes at a time when U.S. airport business is falling by as much as three or four per cent, Rempel said.
"So we're in very good shape in terms of contribution to our economy and our continued growth."
Last year, the airport handled 159,638 tonnes of cargo, 3.7 per cent higher than in 2006 and a 58 per cent hike over 2002.
Winnipeg's airport generally ranks third or fourth in Canada in cargo volume, trailing Toronto, Vancouver and battling Montreal for third spot. Meanwhile, it leads all facilities in the number of dedicated freight carriers (the big city airports carry jumbo jets that bring in lots of freight as well as people).
Rempel said the airport's disproportionately high success in freight stems from the city's geographic location and a determination several years ago to target freight carriers' business.
"They told us what we needed, we provided it for them and a couple of years back (2004) we were the second fastest growing (freight handler) in North America," he said.
Passenger traffic through the airport last year rose 5.4 per cent to 3,570,673 -- up 33 per cent from 2002.
In the last quarter of 2007, WAA revenues totalled $16.6 million -- up 9.5 per cent -- while profits reached $5.5 million.
Although audited financial statements for 2007 were not available Thursday, it appears revenues last year rose 10 per cent to $66.4 million last year, exceeding a WAA forecast of $62.8 million.
Similarly, quarterly statements for the year indicate the authority's profits hit $24.5 million last year, far exceeding a projected $19.9 million and the previous year's net revenues of $19.5 million.
Meanwhile, Rempel said Thursday the old airport terminal will likely be torn down, as planned.
A local businessman had hoped to redevelop the old terminal building, but the WAA has yet to receive a satisfactory proposal, Rempel said.