Traffic at the Saint John airport was down slightly in 2009 from the previous year, but officials have high hopes about boosting the numbers in 2010.

The airport ended the year with 222,310 passengers, compared to an all-time high passenger record of 245,102 in 2008, president and CEO Bernard LeBlanc stated in a news release.

Still, the year-end figures are encouraging, given the economy, he said.

'We look forward to using these results as a springboard for enhancing travel options from our airport.' —Bernard LeBlanc, president and CEO

"In light of the worldwide economic situation and the scaling back of seat availability by major Canadian air carriers, [Saint John] still managed its third best year since privatization" in 1999, said LeBlanc.

"We look forward to using these results as a springboard for enhancing travel options from our airport and we are optimistic that airlines will look positively on these numbers when they scrutinize their route decisions."

The Saint John airport is particularly susceptible to global economic conditions because a high percentage of its passengers are business travelers, said LeBlanc.

"When local projects are stalled or economic growth slows down, business people tend to travel less and our numbers take a direct hit, which we certainly felt for a good part of 2009."

The Christmas travel period was particularly strong, however, with a 2.5 per cent increase over the same period last year, he said.

"We are hopeful that this is an indication of improving economic conditions both locally and globally and that our numbers will continue to grow."

In addition, the airport is looking forward to the return of WestJet seasonal service in May, with an increase in capacity to seven days a week, up from six.  The airline is also changing its schedule to morning departures, he said.

"With direct flights to Toronto daily from May to the end of October, local travelers have a competitive option, one that needs to be sufficiently supported in order to warrant a year-round service by them in the future."

The airport's passenger record in 2008 was attributed to the start up of WestJet and Sunwing service, additional summer flights offered by Air Canada, as well as the growing local economy.