Quesnel city council is looking for ways to attract business back to the airport.
Council approved directing staff to investigate waiving landing and passenger fees at the airport temporarily due to COVID-19.
The move to waive fees was suggested as part of an airport strategic plan submitted to council by city staff. The Quesnel airport hasn’t hosted passenger flights since April of 2020, when Central Mountain Air suspended flights due to COVID-19.
The airport still hosts charter flights, air ambulances and wildfire prevention flights.
Discussion in December at Quesnel city council revolved around whether or not to keep the Quesnel Airport certified. Rural Cariboo Regional District directors representing areas around Quesnel phoned into the meeting, and sent a letter to council asking them to keep certification.
Mayor Bob Simpson said council would try their best to keep the airport certified, and able to host many commercial flights, but the decision may be out of their hands.
“Whether flights come back to airports of our size is an open question,” he said.
The decision to waive fees could come with some hidden costs. Director of Community Services Jeff Norburn used cleaning as an example. If flights were to return to Quesnel, the city would need to clean the airport more often.
He said staff will hope to work out an agreement with any potential airline to purchase fuel inside Quesnel to help offset the costs.
Waiving of fees isn’t the only strategic planning the city discussed. Airport and transit supervisor Jon Pucek presented an eight point plan to council, including attracting different flight-based operators, subdividing the airport, and opening up more light industry.
The first initiative suggested is creating a fixed base operation (FBO) at the airport. An FBO would see the city fund the creation of a hangar and lease it out to interested businesses.
“Aviation related businesses have a symbiotic relationship with other aviation businesses,” the report reads. “Having a suitable space where multiple aviation related businesses can co-exist could make it easier to attract aviation businesses to the airport.”
Because creating a hangar is expensive, the city will hire an analyst to see if it is worth it. Council will apply for a grant which would cover half of the potential $20,000 analysis.
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