Airport to see more traffic

Duane Hicks

The Fort Frances Airport will see more aircraft landings in the future as the Dryden, Red Lake, and Sioux Lookout airports will not continue their seasonal Customs services.
Fort Frances is one of two regional airports, along with Thunder Bay, that will provide year-round services while Kenora will continue its Customs services on a seasonal basis (May-October).
With fewer airports to land at for Customs clearance, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) spokesperson Chris Kealey said it’s likely this will mean more traffic for the local airport.
“The other option is Thunder Bay, which is quite a distance away,” he noted.
“And thirdly, there’s also the Kenora airport for people that are a little more northern.
“So, there are other options available,” Kealey said. “But because of [Fort Frances’] proximity to the border . . . it will likely translate into increases in Fort Frances.
“But to say how many, or what percentage, it’s really impossible to say,” he conceded.
“It will increase our traffic,” agreed Fort Frances Airport supervisor Glen Wood, noting it will benefit the airport in more fuel sales and international landing fees.
“The more traffic we get, it offsets our deficit in the end,” he remarked.
“Basically, it’s going back to the way it used to be before that all changed,” explained Wood, referring to when other airports began offering seasonal Customs services in the 1990s.
“Before then, international aircraft would stop here, Thunder Bay, Kenora, or Winnipeg.
“Definitely, it will increase our traffic, increase our revenue,” Wood noted.
“As to what the numbers will be like, I really don’t know with the economy the way it is and the aviation industry.”
Wood added it will take a few weeks for the increase to really show, but even now there’s positive indicators.
“We’ve already had a few that we normally wouldn’t have had,” he said. “They would have gone directly to Red Lake or Sioux Lookout to clear, but they had to stop here.
“It means fuel sales, it means landing fees. It just means activity at the airport and that’s what we want.
“It’s definitely good news for Fort because we need more traffic,” Wood stressed.
“We’re definitely looking forward to more business.”
For the last fiscal year (April, 2010—March, 2011), CBSA Fort Frances cleared 500 international flights, which had a total of 1,498 travellers (passengers).
So far in this fiscal year (since April), it cleared six international flights with a total of 10 passengers.
The Dryden, Red Lake, and Sioux Lookout airports opted to discontinue Customs service due to escalating costs in CBSA staffing.
But Wood said that’s not an issue here. Because Fort Frances is situated at a border crossing, and has CBSA officers here permanently, there is no cost to the town.
“The towns that had it over the years had to pay to have those officers out there,” he noted.