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Passenger numbers decline again at Hamilton airport: report

Speaking about an annual report issued by the airport, Frank Scremin, CEO and president of John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, said they would need a new discount airline looking for open slots outside of Toronto to reach the one-million passenger target set in 1996.

The Hamilton airport has lost 100,000 passengers between 2009 and 2014

Cargo transport is up 8 per cent, but the airport has lost 100,000 passengers a year in last 5 years

Hopes that Hamilton's airport could serve more than a million passengers a year are just an airline away, says the airport's CEO.

Speaking about an annual report issued by the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, Frank Scremin, the airport's president and CEO, said it would need a new discount airline looking for open slots outside of Toronto in order to reach the one-million passenger target set in 1996. 

"Until something fundamentally changes in the marketplace, it's going to continually be a challenge for us," Scremin said.

The one-million-passengers goal was set when TradePort took over airport operations in 1996. TradePort said it would achieve that number by 2010 but the airport has seen a steady decrease in passenger traffic since 2009, including back-to-back 3 per cent drops in the past two years.

Cargo traffic up 8 per cent

On the flip side, the airport boasted about its annual tax contribution of $1.6-million and its rising overnight cargo shipping business, which has provided an 8 per cent jump in cargo moved in the past year.

Scremin said Hamilton has, in his opinion, the "best express freight overnight in the country."

The annual report, issued by the airport, says 418,709,000 kilograms of "billable weight" moved through by the airport, supporting 1,100 direct jobs and another 1,600 indirect jobs.

Hub system, proximity to Toronto, draining passengers from Hamilton

Scremin said the low passenger numbers is a combined result of being so close to Canada's busiest airport and the two major airlines — Air Canada and West Jet — focusing on regional hubs. That leaves Hamilton on the outside looking in, waiting for a new discount airline to enter the market.

While the past two years have seen drops of roughly 10,000 passengers each year, the five-year downward trend in passenger numbers has showed Hamilton has dropped 100,000 passengers compared to 2009 levels, when the airport had more than 430,000 passengers pass through the gates, compared to 2014's 332,378 passengers.

Ward 11 Councillor Brenda Johnson, where the airport is located, shared in Scremin's frustration that not much could happen "until we can get (a new) airline in."

"As a citizen," she continued, "I am concerned because I would like to have more availability to fly out of Hamilton."

Scremin noted that the recent approval to develop 720 hectares around the Hamilton airport will have a positive impact on traffic.  He said that currently, TradePort is not courting any new business or airline to the airport growth district, since those lands are being marketed by the city's economic development department.

However, Lauren Yaksich, the airport's director of marketing said they are  "very active in pursuing airlines and new business opportunities for growth at the Airport."

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