By Doug Newson, CEO, Charlottetown Airport Authority
Operated by the Charlottetown Airport Authority Inc. (CAA), the Charlottetown Airport (YYG) is located in Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island (PEI), or as the locals like to call it, “The Island.” Although small in size – with a population of about 150,000 residents – thanks to the beautiful beaches, world-class golf and delicious culinary products, we are one of Canada’s most popular tourism destinations, attracting more than 1 million visitors each year. Being one of three entry points on to the Island, the airport’s importance to the province, and especially the tourism industry, is significant. So, by connecting Islanders to the world and the world to our Island, YYG is inspiring Island travel – at record levels.
PEI has seen four consecutive years of record tourism growth, which has resulted in record traffic levels for the Charlottetown Airport. In 2017, passenger traffic surpassed the 370,000 mark for the first time. This outdid our previous high by more than 15,000 passengers. In the past 10 years, passenger movements at our airport have increased by 57 percent. Our recent growth has been driven by significant capacity increases from our main airline partner, Air Canada.
In 2016, Air Canada introduced their leisure airline subsidiary, Air Canada Rouge, to our market, bringing Airbus 319 and 321 from Montreal and Toronto for the first time – a great product for our busy summer season as well as the meetings and conventions sector that thrives in the shoulder seasons on PEI. The Air Canada service is complemented by our other main airline partner, WestJet, that operates two 737 aircraft per day to Toronto in the peak summer season.
Over the past two years, CAA has been investing heavily in its airside infrastructure. In 2017, we completed our second year of a three-year, $25 million Runway Improvement Program – the largest infrastructure investment in CAA’s history. Already providing a $115 million economic impact to our province, this investment will drive further economic growth from YYG by creating jobs for Islanders while also improving our infrastructure and operational effectiveness.
The first phase of the program, which took place from 2016-2017, saw the addition of 2,000 feet to our 5,000-foot crosswind runway, 10-28.
The project consisted of earthwork, installation of a drainage culvert, gravel, asphalt, electrical upgrades, and the construction of two RESAs (runway end safety areas). This project progressed very well and produced some impressive numbers: 50,000 truckloads of earth were moved, 50,000 tonnes of gravel was spread, and 8,000 tonnes of asphalt laid. Expanding runway 10-28 gives us two 7,000-foot runways to significantly improve airport operations, flexibility and safety in different wind and weather conditions. It also means there will be no negative impact to Islanders and tourists in summer 2018, when major rehabilitation work is required on our main runway, forcing the closure of this runway for the entire peak tourism season.
As 2018 progresses, we are now into this final phase of the Runway Improvement Program, which consists of the rehabilitation of Runway 03-21 and connecting taxiways Alpha, Bravo and Charlie. Major components of the work are grading and drainage improvements, storm water replacement, electrical replacement and rehabilitation, and reconstruction of the pavement structure. The primary objective of this project is to ensure the continued safe operation of the Charlottetown Airport so that it can continue to capitalize on recent growth trends and drive economic value for our community.
As mentioned, tourism is a significant growth factor for our airport but with our growing numbers we also feel confident in saying we are proud to be the launch pad for Islanders’ adventures all over the world. This past year we thought we would celebrate that by asking Islanders to share their travel adventures and photos with us. The response was overwhelming. Hundreds of people submitted photos that capture the energy, inspiration, wonder and excitement of exploring a new destination. As an ode to our travelers, we’ve created a curated photo display in our departures lounge with a selection of 100 photos from nearly 30 countries that span every continent. We call it Just Go! The installation also features an interactive touch screen component that allows passengers to view more about the travelers and their stories. It’s a celebration of our customers, their travels and the adventures that inspire others to explore the world. They certainly inspire us in our work to help connect Islanders to the world. Our vision here at the Charlottetown Airport is simple.
We want to provide an exceptional passenger experience, with genuine Island hospitality. As we look to the future, we will never lose sight of this vision and continue to invest in our airport to meet the needs of our residents, visitors and those coming to our Island for business. New programs and services to enhance the passenger experience are on the horizon, as we understand the importance of maintaining and improving our services and facilities to inspire “Island” travel.