Council approves $5 increase to passenger airport improvement fees

Nov 1, 2019

Photo: Northern Development Initiative Trust

All those airport upgrades aren’t cheap. At its Oct. 22nd meeting Smithers council voted unanimously to adopt a new bylaw to increase passenger airport improvement fees. Anyone purchasing tickets for travel out of Smithers Regional Airport (YYD) after Nov. 1st will now pay a $30 airport improvement fee (AIF). The change comes after a report presented to council earlier this year highlighted that without the change YYD operations would eat into the airport’s surplus fund. The report suggested that if the AIF increase was not made YYD’s operating surplus could decrease from its 2019 opening balance of just over $1 million to just over $200,000 by the end of 2023.

“The Airport Operating Surplus is crucial for the airport to pay for capital and special projects that cannot be funded through the Airport Infrastructure Reserve Fund,” a report Director of Finance Leslie Ford presented at council’s Oct. 8th meeting reads.

“The airport’s costs increase every year, and having increasing revenue to cover costs and to pay for ongoing capital is important and necessary for the airport to remain sustainable. If the additional AIF fee is not increased the airport operating surplus may be diminished considerably over the next five years resulting in future capital projects being put on hold.”

This isn’t the first time AIFs at YYD have increased. Fees previously jumped from $10 to $25 per passenger, largely in part to help fund the airport’s approximately $8.5 million expansion, which began in Fall 2017. YYD Manager Rob Blackburn told The Interior News that user fees such as the AIF are essential to funding upgrades to the airport.

“Everything that happens at the airport is done from user fees, whether its from the airlines or from our airport improvement fee that’s what funds everything we do out here,” he said.

In the report to council Ford noted the Town has also received approval from the air carriers and Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) for an increase in the AIF fee. It will still take the Town approximately four to six months to start receiving the full increased AIF revenue on a per passenger basis as any tickets bought prior to Nov. 1 will only be charged a $25 AIF. The Town has also sent a letter to the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN) asking them to reinstate “a past RDBN Smithers Airport Capital benefiting service taxation” however they have received no response from the RDBN.

(News Source: Black Press Media, The Interior News, Trevor Hewitt)