Flight school makes Waterloo airport 16th busiest in Canada

Story by: Staff, Metroland News Service
Juyl 10, 2014

BRESLAU — The Region of Waterloo International Airport was 16th busiest airport in Canada for takeoffs and landings last year, thanks in large part to the Waterloo-Wellington Flight Centre.

The flight school accounted for more than 61,000 of 107,000 takeoffs and landings in 2013.

“Flight school causes so much activity on the movements,” said Chris Wood, airport general manager. “They’re constantly doing landings and takeoffs as training.”

Passenger flights accounted for a lower percentage of takeoffs and landings here than at the 11other provincial airports, including London, Hamilton and Windsor.

About 139,000 passengers used the airport in 2013.

Wood said the Canadian ranking is good news but won’t necessarily bring big dollars into the local operation.

“The only way to judge success financially is going to be scheduled (passenger) traffic,” he said. “That’s the only thing that can get us to where we want to go financially.”

The regional airport exempts landing fees for aircraft that weigh less than 3,000 kilograms, and also gives the flight school a discount on fees.

The flight school is charged a flat fee per airplane as part of its lease, Wood said, as opposed to a fee for each landing that other airports charge.

“That’s part of the strategy of growing the business is attracting business with lower fees,” Coun. Sean Strickland said.

Strickland continues to be concerned about the lack of passenger flights.

The airport offers daily flights to Chicago and Calgary. Sunwing offers winter charters to sunny destinations.

“It’s good to see that our airport continues to be busy in terms of takeoffs and landings,” he said. “But the fact remains we’re well under capacity for passenger volume, so good news report but more work to be done.”

It has been a difficult year for the airport, after Bearskin Airlines cancelled flights to Ottawa in March and regional officials dealt with complaints about noisy Arctic charter Nolinor.

Regional officials have put potential expansion plans on hold indefinitely and will decide in September whether to hire someone to drum up business at the airport.

The airport operated at about half its capacity in 2012, handling about 121,000 passengers. It received a taxpayer subsidy of about $6.3 million.

Wood said officials are concentrating on getting new Ottawa service and also seeking other business.

“It’s a dynamic industry and business, that’s for sure,” Wood said. “(Airlines) want to know that they’re going to make money in your market and we have a great story to tell — we’re the biggest underserved market in Canada.”

He added money isn’t the only indication of the airport’s value, noting the popularity of the flight school and the pilots it trains.