Passengers flying out of the Campbell River Airport can expect to pay 100 per cent more in airport fees by next year.
At its Monday meeting, city council approved an increase to the city’s Airport Improvement Fee which is charged to passengers boarding flights out of the Campbell River Airport.
The fee is currently set at $4 per passenger but is set to increase to $6.25 per passenger this year and $8.50 per passenger next year.
Tyler Massee, airport manager, and Elle Brovold, the city’s property services manager, explained in a joint report to council that without the fee hike, the city could find itself in a bind.
“The annual operating cost for airport fleet was $95,000 and the capital replacement cost was an additional $90,000,” they wrote. “The current AIF (Airport Improvement Fee) will not be sufficient to meet future needs.
“The proposed increase in the AIF will generate approximately $130,000 annually; this new capital will provide the required funds for the annual capital replacement costs for the airport fleet.”
The Airport Improvement Fee was implemented at the Campbell River Airport in order to generate capital for items outside of the airport’s day-to-day operations, such as fleet replacement.
Campbell River’s current $4 fee is less than what is charged in Comox ($5), Nanaimo ($10) and Victoria ($15) and with the increase to $8.50 by 2018, Coun. Larry Samson (the lone councillor opposed) said he’s concerned it could put Campbell River’s airport at a disadvantage.
“I’d like to stay more competitive with Comox and I just feel this is too steep at this time,” Samson said at Monday’s council meeting. “I feel it’s too dramatic of an increase. I would hate to think that by us increasing it by 50 per cent, 100 per cent over the next few years, that it would give them any ammunition to start cutting flights, especially with being so close to Comox.”
Massee and Brovold wrote in their report to council that city staff have consulted both of the air carriers that serve Campbell River – Central Mountain Air and Pacific Coastal Airlines.
“While any increase in fees is not welcomed by airlines, the rationale for the increase was understood and both appreciated the advance notices for the proposed increase,” they wrote.
Brovold told council Monday that Dave Morris, the city’s general manager of facilities and supplies, recently met with representatives from both Pacific Coastal and Central Mountain Air to ensure Campbell River Airport remains aviation-friendly.
In trying to ease Coun. Samson’s fears of airline cuts, Coun. Colleen Evans noted that Pacific Coastal has increased its service to Campbell River, recently adding a late night flight from Vancouver.
And Mayor Andy Adams stressed that other fees and charges at the Campbell River Airport will be maintained at the current rates. He added that a new jet fueling facility coming to the airport may also help free up some extra dollars.
“Once the fuel facility and the trucks are finished and installed, it will actually reduce our cost per litre (for fuel) at which time the (Airport) commission will take a review and recommendations as to whether there may be some room there that has more of an equitable additional funding that comes back into the airport for infrastructure and renewal,” Adams said.
In the meantime, with council’s blessing, the city is on track to move forward with upping the Airport Improvement Fee. Passengers can likely expect to see the first increase go into effect on June 1 and the second on Jan.1 of next year.