New Brunswick

Bathurst airport business taking off

Business is booming at the Bathurst Regional Airport, says the head of the Northern New Brunswick Airport Authority.

Tiny one-terminal airport has seen 54 per cent increase in passengers in 10 years

Air travel up as people search for work. 2:11

Business is booming at the Bathurst Regional Airport, says the head of the Northern New Brunswick Airport Authority.

In a region where most businesses seem to be slowing down, the one-terminal airport saw unprecedented success last year.

The Bathurst Regional Airport in northern New Brunswick is seeing growth in passenger and cargo numbers. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

"We had just under 50,000 passengers use the airport in 2013, which is a 13 per cent increase from last year's number and a 54 per cent increase over the last 10 years," said Jennifer Henry, executive director of the airport authority.

After the closure of Bathurst's Brunswick Mine in 2013, residents have had to look beyond the province's borders for work.

And that means lots of passengers at the airport, particularly those heading west.

"Fort Mac obviously is a big one, Montreal is a big one, Toronto's a big one and in the winter months we see an increase of holiday travellers," said Henry.

There's been movement to the North as well. Several mines in Labrador have attracted workers and an airline to carry them.

In 2012, Pascan Aviation introduced five flights a week to Wabush in the western tip of Labrador.

The flights are still going strong, despite recent closure of one of the Wabush operations.

Upgrades required

Darren MacIntyre still flies out every couple weeks. He said he'd like to stay closer to home, but that's not an option.

"A lot of my family is doing it, my brothers. A lot of my friends are doing it. So there's nobody around here that stays around here because nothing pays and there's no work," said MacIntyre.

Small cargo also pumps up business for the airport.

Rogers Electric Motor Service will ship anything that can fit on a plane.

The Bathurst airport is used by many New Brunswickers who are heading out of province for work, says Jennifer Henry, executive director of the Northern New Brunswick Airport Authority (CBC)

The company used to operate locally, keeping busy with local mines and lumber mills. But in 2006, owner Todd Morrison started operations up North.

When the airport introduced the Pascan flights to Wabush, Morrison's business flourished.

"Now it's an hour and a half, maybe hour and 40 minutes to fly from Bathurst to Wabush. The arrangements before using the Air Canada option — we were flying to Montreal, and then Quebec City, and then Sept-Îles and so on."

The airport is now looking to upgrade and is asking the community for support in securing funding for a larger facility.