New Brunswick

Fredericton airport gets green light for $30M-expansion to ease crowding

After operating above capacity for almost a decade, the Fredericton International Airport has secured funding for a 30-month expansion project that will include more ticket counters and more seating.

Project hinged on financial commitment from federal and provincial governments

Johanne Gallant, CEO and president of the airport authority, said the construction project will span 30 months and increase the airport building's size by half. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

After operating above capacity for almost a decade, the Fredericton International Airport has secured money for a $30-million project expansion.

The project announced Tuesday morning will increase the size of the airport building by half, the airport said.

More ticket counters, a larger kitchen, renovated washrooms, a children's play area, more seating and more energy-efficient geothermal heating will be among the changes made during the 30-month construction.

Kate O'Rourke, airport spokesperson, said the waiting areas have been too crowded, especially with "sun destination" travellers, in the last few years.

Since the airport has acquired more carriers, temporary counters have been "shoe-horned in," she said.

Clogged waiting areas

But with the expansion, she said, the airport will avoid crowding in ticketing and waiting areas, and the baggage area will be reorganized so travellers won't have to switch directions to drop their bags then go through security.

The provincial and federal governments are each contributing $9 million, and the Fredericton International Airport Authority Inc. will pay the rest.

The authority said previously that its share of the funding was secured, and it was waiting for federal and provincial commitments.

"This is a project that is well needed and we want to be the ambassador for our capital city and our province," said Johanne Gallant CEO and president of the airport authority.

A digital rendering of the airport's exterior after expansion. (Submitted by Fredericton International Airport Authority)

"We want to step up our game."

Construction, which will employ more than 500 people, will begin mid-summer and continue for 30 months.

Gallant said the airport will continue to serve travellers during construction, which is why the project will take so long.

The expansion will give the airport building more natural light and better flow through the ticketing area.

"We're going to be running as usual with a bit more dust and a little bit more going around corners, so thank you in advance for your patience … short-term pain, long-term gain," she said.

Speaking at the announcement in the airport's arrivals terminal were Premier Brian Gallant and MP Matt DeCourcey. The federal money is coming from the New Building Canada Fund.

A digital rendering of the departure area after construction. (Submitted by Fredericton International Airport Authority)

The Fredericton airport previously didn't qualify for federal funding because of its size, but in July 2017, the government announced it would make $2 billion available for small airports. The Saint John Airport was also helped by that announcement.

DeCourcey said the biggest hurdle for making the fund available was to make the case the airport is important.

"It became a process of working to convince levels of government that not only should it be eligible for financing but it was a key piece of economic infrastructure that needed to grow," he said.

In 2018, Porter Airlines became the third airline to fly from Fredericton to multiple destinations.

In 2017, the airport saw 397,741 passengers travelling through the terminal, and passenger growth had been steadily increasing by about five per cent year over year for eight years.

Johanne Gallant said there are no specific plans to add more carriers, but it is a possibility.