Airport, Swanberg Air slashing fares by 50 per cent

Flying east out of the Red Deer Regional Airport has become a lot cheaper.

Flying east out of the Red Deer Regional Airport has become a lot cheaper.

The airport and Swanberg Air have announced that fares for flights from Red Deer to Calgary, Swift Current and Regina are being discounted by 50 per cent until the end of this year. The same reduction applies to the fares for returning flights.

In the case of a one-way trip to Regina, said airport CEO Liam O’Connell, the new cost is less than $350, inclusive of taxes and fees.

O’Connell said the Red Deer Regional Airport Authority and Swanberg are splitting the cost of the discount. It was introduced to help push 2009 passenger numbers past the threshold required for federal Airports Capital Assistance Program funding.

The airport authority is requesting about $4 million for an overlay on runways, taxiways and the main ramp, plus related work, O’Connell told Red Deer County Council on Tuesday. It’s also seeking $500,000 for more bays in the maintenance shop for equipment storage, and $1 million to meet new Transport Canada regulations for lighting for low-visibility situations.

“That’s what we’re looking forward to in 2010,” said O’Connell. “Those three are our priorities, and we’re pretty confident we’ll get something.”

However, the airport must have 1,000 incoming and outgoing passengers to be eligible for ACAP money.

“To the end of the month of November we were 884,” O’Connell said after the council meeting.

He added that the figure now up to about 910.

O’Connell believes the economic slowdown has affected passenger movements.

“This time last year, we were just a hair under 1,500.”

He’s optimistic a four-digit tally will be reached by year-end, but said the airport authority didn’t want to take any chances.

“We’d like to comfortably go over that.”

The reduced fares are aimed at oil and gas companies, but also pleasure travellers with ties to Saskatchewan, said O’Connell.

Swanberg, which has been flying out of the Red Deer Regional Airport since mid-October, is expected to add flights to Estevan, Sask., within days, he noted. When it does, the discount will apply to that route as well.

Last year, the airport authority received $851,025 in ACAP funding, with this money designated for the purchase of a new snowblower, plow truck and sweeper. In 2008, more than $2.1 million in ACAP funding was used for airfield lighting, signage and landing aids.

O’Connell told county council that efforts to attract other airlines to the airport continue.

He said the authority has been talking to four carriers during the past year, with more meetings scheduled in January.

“We’ve got a couple out in B.C. Of course, we’ve been talking on and off to Air Canada and other carriers and basically they’re all sitting there and saying, ‘OK, when’s the economy going to turn, what are the numbers?’

“My belief is you’re going to see people kind of wait through the first quarter of next year before they really start to see positive news. And when that happens, you’re going to start seeing those guys start to move.”

Swanberg’s website is www.swanbergair.com.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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