Quesnel City Council has voted in favour of waiving passenger fees for Central Mountain Air and to continue waiving lease fees to the airline, both until December 28, 2021.
They were the sort of the carrots that had to be dangled in order to restore passenger air service to Quesnel.
But Mayor Bob Simpson noted at Tuesday night’s meeting that there were two caveats to that for the ratepayer…
“One is we have COVID funds that we’re using to backstop losses at the airport that will help us with some of those fee waivers, and the second is that the federal government has a grant that’s pending for 300 thousand dollars that will also help offset that.”
The City will still incur some added costs for things like janitorial services and hiring back an employee, and Simpson also suggested that staff talk to the Cariboo Regional District, now a partner of the city’s at the airport, about helping out.
Central Mountain Air is expected to resume flights on June 28th.
Despite the return of passenger service, Simpson also said however, that he didn’t want to lose the momentum Council was building when it thought it was going to continue on without it and become an Areodrome.
“When we lost scheduled flights there was a lot of discussion about whether regional flights would ever return to airports like ours, so that really put our feet to the fire to say OK, if that’s the case and it’s not going to be an airport with scheduled flights, what would it look like ? So we’ve done lots of work with charter flights and our chartered flights in and out of there have increased quite dramatically and we want to continue that. Can we get direct flights whether they’re fixed wing or rotary, in and out of Barkerville Gold ? Can we get a helicopter base in Quesnel ? The fire crew that’s there has been expanded, it’s doubled. We’re talking to them can you add more ? Can we actually land some of the bigger planes ?”
Simpson says another idea is to subdivide the land out there.
“We have a lot of property up there that could potentially be used for development but the caveat we always have, the land is not subdivided and it’s not available for sale, it’s only available for lease. So for somebody who comes with an idea saying I want to do x up at the airport, there is a lot of hoops for them to go through to parse out a piece of property.”
Simpson says they also have some funding from Northern Development Trust to look at a large scale hangar that could potentially attract mechanics, a potential flight school or mechanic school.
He says airports have a long legacy of losing money, ever since the Federal Government downloaded the service onto Municipalities a long time ago, and he’d like to see the Quesnel airport be cash plus with some of these “value-added” ideas.