Red Deer Airport is disappointed Air Canada will discontinue flights between Red Deer and Calgary, but looks forward to seeing ultra low-cost carriers with larger planes land at the local airport.
Airport CEO Graham Ingham said Air Canada’s announcement is not going to affect the airport going forward.
“We’re sad to see them go, but we’re also working on some other opportunities. From our perspective, it’s full steam ahead,” Ingham said on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Air Canada said as of Nov. 1 it will no longer operate its three daily flights.
Ingham said Air Canada has been flying Beechcraft 1900D aircraft, an 18 seater, and ultra low-cost carriers use 737s which have about 140 seats.
“We’ve been in high-level discussions with Canada Jetlines as well as another company called Enerjet, and both have expressed interest in providing service to the Red Deer Airport. But neither one of those are up and flying yet.”
He said ultra low-cost carriers are new to Canada and a big part of their business model is taking advantage of low-cost secondary airports like Red Deer that is able to draw from Central Alberta’s 300,000 population, as well as Calgary and Edmonton.
Hopefully this year there will be a more definitive commitment to pursue opportunities at the Red Deer Airport, followed by work on a time schedule, he said.
“We’ve got a lot to offer here — free parking, small terminal, get in, get off the airplane really quick. So we’re hoping that’s the direction we’re going to head in.”
When Air Canada pulls out in November there will be no scheduled air service at the airport, but charter work for oil field workers has been consistent, he said.
“Every week we’re doing flights up to Grande Prairie and Fort St. John. That picked up last year which was a good sign the economy is starting to recover somewhat. And a big part of airport is flight training we do.”
Both Sky Wings Aviation Academy and Montair Aviation are running pretty much at capacity. Most of Montair’s students come from China, he said.
Ingham said about 200 acres of airport land to the north will become available for development once Red Deer County puts in a road linking Hwy 2A to Township Road 374 in the next year or so.
“That in itself will be a great opportunity and a huge economic driver for Red Deer and Central Alberta.”
Red Deer Airport is currently home to 19 aviation-related businesses employing about 250 full-time staff.