Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Flyers flocking to new airport

Passenger volume up 7.9 per cent in Q1

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MANITOBANS took to the skies in a big way in the first three months of this year, boosting passenger volumes at Winnipeg's new Richardson International Airport terminal nearly eight per cent.

The Winnipeg Airports Authority Inc. reported Wednesday that 910,058 passengers passed through the new terminal in the first quarter this year. That's an increase of 7.9 per cent from the 843,472 that passed through the old airport terminal in the first three months of 2011.

WAA president and CEO Barry Rempel said two carriers -- Air Transat and Sunwing -- added several new flights last winter to destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. That helped boost international passenger volumes about nine per cent.

Domestic passenger volumes were up nearly the same amount, he said, due to an increase in business travellers and more people flying to Toronto and Montreal for flights to Europe.

Despite the increase in air travellers, the WAA saw a big drop in cash flow from operations, which it uses to measure its operating performance.

That plummeted to $4.8 million from $10.3 million in the same period last year. Rempel warned earlier this year that cash flows would take a hit in the next few years because the WAA has started paying interest on the hundreds of millions of dollars it borrowed to build the new terminal, which opened last Oct. 31.

Though cash flow was down, the WAA said first-quarter revenue grew by $2.9 million to $23.5 million and earnings before interest, depreciation, and taxes rose by $1.4 million to $12.6 million.

On the cargo front, Rempel said the final cargo shipment numbers aren't available yet. They're expected to show a decline of about five per cent, but he said that's because cargo volumes were unusually high in the first quarter last year. This year, they were closer to historical norms.

Rempel said this year's strong first-quarter passenger volumes could be a sign of things to come. He said the extra flights added last winter, including three new Air Transat flights a week to Panama, all did extremely well.

"All of the carriers we've spoken to are very, very pleased with their experience in this market," he said. "So I'm expecting more growth (in passenger traffic) next year. My personal belief is that this market remains underserved, and that if the right flights are offered, people will respond."

Rempel said WAA officials are happy with how the new airport terminal has performed since it opened.

"It's really working quite well and I'm very pleased. And I'm even more pleased by the reaction we've been getting from passengers."

He noted it was recently named to the Travel Channel's top-10 list of the most iconic airport terminals in the world.

"So we're in very good company."


Additions planned

ALTHOUGH the Winnipeg Airports Authority is thrilled with how the new airport terminal has performed, that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. Here are a few things it has recently added or hopes to add in the next few months:

-- Two new play structures in the passenger arrival area.

-- More tables and chairs in some of the more popular eateries in the terminal.

-- Up to three more retail outlets, including a couple of restaurants.

-- More electrical outlets in the passenger boarding area.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 26, 2012 B4

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