MONCTON – Bernard LeBlanc, CEO of the Greater Moncton International Airport Authority (GMIAA), says there are great development opportunities on the land around the airport because of access to Highway 15 and Aviation Avenue.
“If our passengers want a hotel right by the airport or a restaurant that’s not in the airport terminal, that’s a possibility,” he said at the GMIAA annual general meeting last Friday.
He hopes to generate additional revenue and cater to passengers’ needs with plans to lease the surrounding land to businesses. The project is part of its 20-year master plan, which is slated to be completed by the summer.
With several automotive dealers now present at Dieppe’s industrial park, which is located near the airport, gas stations and car washes could also benefit both those businesses and the airport’s passengers, LeBlanc said.
The master plan will guide overall development decisions at the airport, said Marcel Champagne, a senior airport planner with SNC Lavalin, which is working with the GMIAA on the project.
“Right now, we’re at the stage of fine tuning it and refining some options for development of the main infrastructure elements, so we don’t have the costing for that yet,” he said.
The master plan forecasts that by 2038, the airport could serve up to one million passengers a year. Last year, the GMIAA saw the most number of passengers ever to fly through its terminal building at over 665,000 people. The short presence of affordable airline NewLeaf, WestJet adding a third daily flight to Toronto and “sun destinations” attracting more people all contributed to the high figure LeBlanc said.
The airport also hit the highest cargo revenue ever at nearly $2.7 million in 2017.
Today, much of the airport’s revenues come from fees charged to passengers. But the GMIAA has called on firms, developers and institutions to turn nine blocks of lands that it controls into businesses as an additional source of revenue. The lands cannot be sold, but the GMIAA can lease them to interested parties.
LeBlanc said it’s difficult to predict how much revenue could be generated from the plan.
“We could strike an agreement that would be a concession of some type where we can get a percentage of sales or something like that, which could be a lot more lucrative for the airport,” he said. “So depending on who has interest and the deal structures, the amount [of expected revenue] could change quite a bit.”
There’s no specific timeline set for any development yet, Champagne said.
“It depends on what [interested parties] want to do. If they’re interested in developing land along aviation avenue, some of those sites are shovel ready,” he said.
The lands up for lease are those that won’t be required for operational purposes in the long-term, Champagne said.
The airport’s infrastructure itself can still withstand growth and demands for the next few years, he added. But some work will be done in the short term for runway-end safety areas to minimize damage to aircraft – a requirement from Transport Canada for airports across the country.
“Consumers will start to see changes in the five-to-10-year window,” he said. “We’re going to see a reconfiguration of the aircraft aprons, and changes within the terminal building in terms of increasing the size of the departures lounge. When doing so, we’ll add space for more retail and of course parking facilities.”
Other priorities in the master plan include offering direct U.S. and international flights, direct access to and from Highway 15, and more public transit options to and from the airport.
LeBlanc admits that it’s tough to attract U.S. airlines to Canada right now as the Canadian dollar remains low. But that doesn’t mean “things don’t change,” he said.
LeBlanc is also looking at direct flights to Newfoundland, some European destinations, being a connecting leg for flights to fellow Vantage Airport Group terminals like Hamilton and Abbotsford, and to take part in the low-cost airline market.
“The first entrance [of low-cost airlines into the market] would be [WestJet subsidiary] Swoop, which would be this July. They’re coming to Halifax, but that’s someone we’re interested in speaking to.”