March 8, 2010
Most new airport security measures won’t impact Grande Prairie
DARRELL WINWOOD – Herald-Tribune staff
The Grande Prairie Regional Airport has not been caught up in the new wave of airport security measures, but staff warn that doesn’t mean clear skies for travellers.
“Most of what’s going on doesn’t affect us,” said airport manager Brian Grant yesterday.
The federal government announced earlier this week it will be installing new body-scanners at the country’s eight major airports and new searches and carry-on luggage restrictions are already in place, especially for travel into the United States
The regional airport does not have any direct flights to other countries so there are no plans for increased security staff or new scanning devices, but bag searches could be increased. Anyone flying out of Grande Prairie for connections elsewhere needs to know the rules, said Grant.
“We’re experiencing a lot of frustration from travellers … if they get through (security) here, they might not get through there,” meaning Edmonton and Calgary.
According to the Canadian Air Transport Safety Authority, which regulates airport security, U.S.-bound passengers aren’t permitted carry-on bags.
Passengers are still allowed to have small individual items such as medication or medical devices, small purses, cameras, coats, items for care of infants, laptop computers, crutches and canes. Normal carry-ons must be checked.
Passengers travelling within Canada are still permitted two carry-ons.
“They (travellers), should look at what the requirements are at their next stop,” said Grant. “Everything we do (flight destinations) filters through Edmonton and Calgary.”
The increased security came at the end of 2009, a year in which traffic was down at the regional airport but not by as much as some expected, said Grant. Exact figures should be released next week, but he said passenger traffic was down about 5% from 2008, which was a record year.
“We’re actually sitting pretty solid,” he said.
There are no immediate plans for any new destinations out of Grande Prairie, but Grant said the most requested are direct service to Vancouver and Toronto. The airport had been hoping to lure some wintertime charters to sun spots, but the economy has stalled those plans.
Meanwhile, the airport is wrapping up the second phase of its expansion plan. One of the final pieces of work is the removal of an old elevator near the check-in counters to provide more space there. A new elevator was installed in the south portion of the building which opened several months ago.
It will cap nearly four years of solid construction and expansion and it’s time to rest, at least for now, said Grant.
“We’re going to take a breather and review our master plan in 2010,” he said, adding the airport has been lobbying the provincial government to allow traffic lights on Highway 43 at the airport entry but has been denied by Alberta Transportation.
The airport is also getting busy for the arrival in two months of all the athletes and officials for the Arctic Winter Games. Several of the delegations, such as Alaska, will be flying directly to Grande Prairie and temporary Canada Customs offices will be opened, said Grant.