Last year marked the second busiest year ever for the Grande Prairie Airport. A total of 438,975 passengers made their way through the terminal in 2018, just 6,710 short of the record of 445,685 from 2014.

“We knew it was getting busier but we certainly didn’t feel that we were expected to have that significant of an increase earlier in the year,” says CEO Brian Grant, “but it turned out the second half was really heavy.”

Overall, passenger traffic increased 8.1 per cent over 2017, while flight arrivals and departures went up by 9 per cent to 3,609. Grant says it’s a sign that the local economy is improving.

“Usually we’re a few months late in seeing the pickup of an economy, but this certainly is showing now that things are stronger than many other places.”

While more people moving through the airport can be noticed in the terminal, it also has an effect on its restaurant and parking lot. Grant says parking right now is running around 90 per cent full, while it was between 60 and 70 per cent last year. He adds that passenger growth is continuing into this year.

“We waited for our January numbers for 2019 just to see what was happening and they are up; probably just over nine per cent is our early indications over the same period in 2018.”

The airport is also again entertaining the idea of running periodic charter flights to Vancouver. Air North, based out of Whitehorse, recently approached it to gauge interest in a return flight leaving Grande Prairie on February 8th and returning on the 10th.

The flight sold out, but Grant notes that in the past other tests didn’t find enough demand for regular service. However, there might be possibilities for seasonal flights or for special events.

“We’re looking at trying to find someone that’ll do it on a limited basis, at least, to start getting the responses that we’d need for a full-time flight.”

The charter flight also brought people from Whitehorse to Grande Prairie for the weekend.