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Airport terminal expansion well underway

Expanding terminal key to luring ultra-low-cost passenger carrier
Expansion of the terminal at Red Deer Regional Airport is well underway and is expected to be complete by the end of July 2024. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)

Terminal expansion is taking shape at Red Deer Regional Airport, where the project is seen as critical to luring scheduled passenger service back to Central Alberta.

The $3.5 million project will see the airport add a 10,000-square-foot addition with space for security, baggage pick-up area, future customs area and space to handle the 189 passengers from a full 737-800.

“We’ve got the foundation in and we’re right on track and on budget and we hope to be completed and ready for use by July 31, 2024,” said airport CEO Graham Ingham on Tuesday.

The ultra low-cost air carrier industry is in flux since WestJet announced in June it was shutting down its budget airline, Swoop.

Swoop was launched in June 2018. It offered heavily discounted rates with few frills. It is a formula a number of other ultra low-cost carriers have followed in recent years, including Flair, Lynx and Canada Jetlines.

“Obviously, with the demise of Swoop, everybody is reassessing their strategies and where they want to operate out of.

“There’s a lot of consolidation going, specifically, between WestJet and Air Canada. They’re dividing up the country. One’s going to take the east, one’s going to take the west and as a result, they’re taking a long look at strategies and deciding what works best for them at this time.”

Ingham remains confident Central Alberta’s potential will be recognized.

“We continue to have conversations with the low-cost carriers. They are still interested in Red Deer. It makes a lot of sense. It’s just a matter of us getting the infrastructure in place to support their business.”

Another small step in the airport’s long-range plans was taken on Tuesday when a subdivision was approved to allow the sale of a small piece of land and the building that once housed the airport authority offices, which moved into the summer into a nearby hangar.

“We have always made it a point that we’re very committed to ensuring that we’d look at other ways to raise funds to support airport expansion in the future rather than just coming with our hand out for grants all the time.

“This makes sense. It was a parcel of land that wasn’t part of our long-term strategy. It’s not airside-accessible land.”

The land will be sold to an existing airport tenant that is very active in development at the airport, he said.