Good things on the horizon

Kevin Higgins
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Airport boss says 2013 was an exciting year, and there’s more to come in 2014

Gary Very may have been a little modest in his summation of 2013 for the Gander International Airport Authority (GIAA).

RIGHT FLIGHT – Gary Vey, CEO and president of the Gander International Airport Authority, said he’s excited about the future of the airport, after experiencing a very positive 2013.

Initially last Thursday, CEO and president of the GIAA told The Beacon,2013 was overall “not a bad year” at the local airport.

However, after giving it a little more thought, and considering the GIAA saw a six per cent increase in domestic traffic, had a ninth consecutive year of increasing profits, completed several capital works projects and opened a business park to diversify revenue sources, he changed his opinion to “a good year, with more exciting things to come.

“We had a lot of positives I guess when you look back at 2013,” said Mr. Vey. “There’s not a lot of negative things happening here…it may not be the same type of business as was traditionally here, but we’re doing very well.

“There are all kinds of good things percolating here, and we think it will bear fruit and put Gander in a good position to move forward into the future.”

While road work, including the repaving of a section of Garrett Drive, was among the much-needed capital works at the airport in the past year, it was another completed project that brought a smile to Mr. Vey’s face.

This past year, GIAA decided it needed to make changes to the parking system — not only the amount of parking, but where its customers, including car rental agencies, would park.

A new parking lot was constructed for car rental agencies to use, opening up more parking space others using the airport. An automated paying system was also installed in the short- and long-term parking lot.

“When we took over the airport (from Transport Canada in 2001), our parking brought us in less than $30,000 a year. This year we’ll come in over $300,000,” he said, noting there were 180 parking spaces in 2001, and now there are close to 400.

“That’s a lot of money, and I believe there is a day coming where it will hit $1 million…that’s good revenue for our airport, and is possible partially because of changes we made this past year to our parking lot.”

The opening of the business park, according to Mr. Vey, was also important in a successful 2013, and could be more so in the future.

“We’ve done Phase 1, and we have some companies signed on to lease, so that’s bringing us revenue,” he said. “When we get 60-70 per cent capacity in Phase 1, we’ll move onto Phase 2 and, depending on how that goes, we’ll move on to Phase 3. We’re being cautious about spending a lot of money, but this does have the potential to bring in upwards of $1 million a year.

“We’re diversifying our revenue base, and this is important to the sustainability of the airport.”

As for the future, Mr. Vey said he is already seeing the return of some Eastern European carriers returning to Gander, following the federal government’s decision late last year to eliminate the visa requirements for Czech nationals. This means Czech nationals can now stay in Canada for up to six months visa-free, which is consistent with all other visa-exempt nationals.

“Within in a month after releasing the visa requirements for the Czech nationals we saw a carrier re-introduce service through Gander…not a lot, but probably 16-17 flights this winter as they re-establish the market down south,” he said. “I think we’re going to do more of them in the future.

“Our international flights are down from the glory days, and we will never see those days again, but seeing some of these flights come back is nothing but positive.”

One of the goals for 2014 for the GIAA is to move forward with plans for the future of the current terminal. That building, constructed in 1959 at a cost of $3 million, encompasses about 106,000 square feet, and cost GIAA approximately $900,000 annually to heat and light.

Mr. Vey told The Beacon in December, the GIAA only needs a building of approximately 35,000 square feet for its operations.

“The committee has been struck to look at a new terminal building for the airport, and if it’s feasible,” he said. “The thing about the airport is we’re not having a problem making money off our operations, it’s the funding of this huge infrastructure we have.

“The airport is evolving and it’s changing, and I look out the window and get excited about this airport in the future.”

Organizations: Transport Canada

Geographic location: Canada

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