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HomeNewsCouncil Defers Adoption On Proposed Additional Airport Improvement Fees as Concerns Raised

Council Defers Adoption On Proposed Additional Airport Improvement Fees as Concerns Raised

A proposed airport improvement fee that would see passengers at the Williams Lake Regional Airport paying an additional $10 was met with criticism by a major key stakeholder.

Pacific Coastal Airlines, Director of Business Development and Corporate Communications Kevin Boothroyd spoke out against a airport fees amendment bylaw at Tuesday’s regular Council meeting.

He says he does not believe that local residents realize that they are already collecting $15 each way per passenger fee on behalf of the City, and returning it to the City.

“When we began here it was originally $7.25 and in 2013, about five and a years ago, they more than doubled that to $15 per passenger each way,” Boothroyd explained.

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“Passengers don’t see it on their ticket but we’re collecting that. So our questions were why the additional $10. At thirty dollars that’s the most expensive airport  for us to fly into of all of our 16 destinations and certainly more expensive than the other airports nearby.”

Boothroyd adds that they’re very concerned about their ability to maintain competitive pricing against airlines say in Quesnel.

He says despite being a key stakeholder at the Airport, there was a lack of consultation and they were only made aware of the proposed fee when it received public notification.

“We had to find this out at the last minute through the public process,” Boothroyd said.

“As a key stakeholder at the airport we would have assumed that somebody would have reached out to the city and to discuss this matter before they put it to paper and went public.”

Also armed with similar concerns was Michael Jones who was representing the Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce.

“We would like to have a breakdown how those funds are currently being used,” he said.

“We want to make sure that we’re not unfairly taxing users to fund something that should already in fact exist, and we want to know how will the additional fee attract usage at the airport.”

The proposed fees according to the City’s Chief Financial Officer would provide the amount of funding needed for upcoming groundside projects at the airport, which Boothroyd argued are generally used for just the airport itself.

“It still begs the question what’s happened with the thirty dollars on a return flight per trip per passenger in total  that we’ve been collecting all these five and a five years. If there were improvements to be made why haven’t they been made,” he said.

“I understand that it went to general revenue, and where it went from there I guess is up to Council to account for.”

‘A Legacy of Deferred Maintenance’

Councillor Scott Nelson with fellow Councillors apologized to Boothroyd for the lack of consultation.

“But I have to be upfront,” Nelson added.

“It’s the taxpayers that we don’t want to have to pay these bills. I think we’ve got about 34,000 passengers a year that fly to Williams Lake so from our perspective we think it’s a solid investment. We’re not exactly sure how much we want to charge, but we know we have to charge something else in order to ensure that we want to increase the size of our regional airport.”

Boothroyd told Nelson however that still does not answer why $30 has been collected over the years and is one of the highest collection fees by the Airport.

“Although the impact would not be significant to a single passenger-the businessman, businesswoman flying to and from Vancouver, when you add it up times four of a family it’s going to be a significant difference and that might justify the one hour drive to Quesnel flying out of there,” said Boothroyd.

“At the end of the day it’s about our ability to  maintain competitive pricing against airlines operating at nearby airports. It’s already difficult to do now and is going to be more difficult with an additional $10 on top of that.”

CAO Milo MacDonald confirmed that the City lost a substantial amount of expertise with the recent departure of the airport’s general manager.

“We’re also dealing with a legacy of deferred maintenance,” MacDonald said.

“As you’re aware the issues to the terminal buildings has been allowed to deteriorate, and we also have the road leading up to the airport-obviously it’s in a deteriorating state. So what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to create a sustainable way to to servicing all of the costs associated with  running the airport which are significant.”

“As the current model stands all of the costs associated with operating the airport falls onto the citizen, the taxpayer of Williams Lake, but the users of the airport would be more reflective of the broader rural area around the airport.”

Council deferred from adopting the bylaw and referred it to a Committee of Whole Council Meeting for further discussion.

“Of course we want to see improvements to the airport, but it has to make sure that it allows the airlines that are operating here to to maintain competitive pricing against nearby airports,” Boothroyd said.

“We don’t know if the final fee is going to be more or less. So that’s our concern and if that happens we have to find a way to compensate and traditionally the airlines it’s a reduction of service and seats.”

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