Passenger flight service being studied as possibility for Niagara District Airport

BUSINESS: Passenger flight service being studied as possibility for Niagara District Airport

Aviation consultants Kent Myers (left) and Bruce Wetsel of Airplanners spoke at the Niagara District Airport Commission’s annual general meeting on Wednesday night. Hired by the Niagara economic development division of the Region of Niagara and the Tourism Partnership of Niagara, the consultants are conducting a feasibility study to explore whether passenger flight service to the airport is a viable option. Photo courtesy of Niagara This Week

MELINDA CHEEVERS/Niagara This Week
At the airport commission’s annual general meeting on Wednesday night, Kent Myers and Bruce Wetsel of aviation consultation group Airplanners spoke about a feasibility study currently under way exploring the possibility of bringing air service into Niagara.

With experience in communities like Vail, CO; Mammoth Lakes, CA; and Myrtle Beach, SC, Kent told the room they only like to partner with winners and he sees Niagara as a viable option. One component is already covered, he said: they have the facility.
Myers acknowledged there were some points of concern, namely competition from airports in Hamilton, Toronto and “over the river” in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, NY.

Referencing the high Canadian taxes associated with flying, Myers said a lot of people prefer to travel over the border to fly to US destinations.
“In California, they call it the ‘Tijuana effect’,” he said, explaining many people in southern California travel over the border to get cheaper flights within Mexico.

The consulting group, hired by the Niagara economic development division of the Region of Niagara and the Tourism Partnership of Niagara, will conduct a feasibility study evaluating the potential of flight service to the airport based in Niagara-on-the-Lake, targeting flight use from airports within an 800-kilometre radius. The study will also evaluate the tourism industry’s capacity to support the flight service. Myers explained that meant checking to see tourism operators are offering the type of packages visitors want.

As part of the study, Wetsel said they have been analyzing existing Niagara Falls visitor research, conducting surveys of past and potential Niagara Falls visitors as well as conducting interviews with Niagara Falls tourism businesses. The completed report, which will include candidate flight service airports and potential demand to the airport, will be presented on May 1 during the Tourism Partnership of Niagara’s stakeholders meeting at Americana Resort.

While located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the airport is financially supported by the town as well as its two neighbouring cities, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls. It is managed on behalf of the three municipalities by The Niagara District Airport Commission.
Following the presentation, Niagara Falls mayor Jim Diodati said he was very excited to see the report in May.
“This is the next step in making the airport very viable,” he said. “This is absolutely the next step. We want to see the airport be profitable and successful.”

Incoming airport commission chair Janice Wing echoed those sentiments.
“I really see passenger service as a great opportunity for us,” she said. “It’s time for change; I feel we’re on the verge of an enormous change and this is part of that.”
For more information on Airplanners’ feasibility study presentation, visit http://www.niagarasrto.com and look for Air Flight Feasibility Study under the “presentations” menu.

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