Red Deer Airport chief executive officer Graham Ingham outside the terminal. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Red Deer Airport pursues low-cost carriers

Three different airlines have their eye on Red Deer Airport

Three ultra-low-cost carriers have their eyes on Red Deer Airport.

Airport chief executive officer Graham Ingham reported to council Monday that Swoop, Enerjet and Canadian Jetlines have all expressed interest in adding a Red Deer stop to their schedules. It would be a big financial boost to the airport at Springbrook.

“The low-cost carriers probably present the best opportunity for Red Deer (Airport) in the short term,” said Ingham.

Swoop, a low-cost carrier announced by WestJet and expected to begin flying in June, is the most established of the three. Ingham said he has not had any formal discussion with WestJet yet.

Ingham will be speaking with the other airlines in coming weeks and more than one carrier may end up landing in Red Deer. Canadian Jetlines has already included a Red Deer-to-Abbotsford link on its 2019-20 schedule. Other destinations would likely be on the lines of Hamilton and Kitchener, in Ontario.

”Nothing’s a done deal,” he said. “At the end of the day, they’ve got to get their licences and financing in place.”

Air Canada is the only airline offering scheduled passenger service at the airport now.

Attracting one or more low-cost carriers would be a coup for the airport. Besides the fees and other revenue from airlines, the additional service would likely spawn new airport developments. The airport is fortunate in it has a large amount of developable land nearby, an advantage many airports don’t have.

While the rewards are significant if the airlines come to Red Deer, there are costs, too.

Expanding the terminal to handle up to 200 passengers from the existing 35 will cost about $2.5 million. Another $2 million would be needed to increase the size of the apron to provide room for more jets. Boosting the size of the parking lot to 350 spaces from 150 would cost abut $500,000.

Within a year of the new airlines setting up shop in Red Deer, the runway would need to be widened to the industry standard 45 meters from the existing 30 metres at a cost of about $6 million. Another $6-million project would involve strengthening the runways to take heavier jets.

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