The latest edition of the Chamber’s Luncheon Series took place on Thursday with James Bogusz, President and CEO of the Regina Airport Authority, providing an interesting and informative presentation on the challenges presented by the pandemic and how the organization is moving forward.
During his 35-minute presentation, which was followed by a Q&A session, Bogusz touched on a wide array of subjects. Here are some of the highlights from his presentation:
l The pandemic was incredibly rough on the airport that saw some days of only four or five commercial flights. Now as the airport heads into July, those type of days have been put behind it.
“We want to, of course, recover to pre-pandemic levels as soon as possible. Because of the efforts our staff have put in for many months negotiating and working with airline partners to bring in new flights . . . we have recovered almost 90 per cent of pre-pandemic seat capacity,” said Bogusz. “This is deliberate. This is our board of directors working with management to keep our fees and charges low. We have to make sure we are a competitive environment. We have to make sure airlines make money. As much as we like to talk about the warm and fuzzies and the local economy, the airlines have to put bucks in their pocket. We want to make sure we do our part to run the prudent business that is giving them the opportunity to earn revenue in our market and we’ve been very successful in doing that.”
l Swoop, an ultra-low fare airline, recently began operating in Regina with flights to Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto. Bogusz explained that these flights will have an economic impact on Regina.
“What we gained was two flights to Toronto, two flights to Edmonton and two flights to Winnipeg (per week). This represents, in our community, over 1,100 departing seats per week. You can do basic math, what’s a traveller spent? Be it even a resident buying a plane ticket to come home. This is tens of millions of dollars for a local economy,” said Bogusz. “We’ve been working on Swoop for over two years. You just can’t get people to fly to your airport when you only have one-fifth of your passengers. But now we’re in a much better position to incent this airline to start.”
l Bogusz also provided a glimpse of future development in the community and its affect on the airport.
“This airport is pro-development but please, no building high rises in the development,” Bogusz said with a chuckle. “There is a 7,901-foot runway that serves all of southern Saskatchewan and we have to consider what will happen when that runway is extended . . . We are not contemplating the runway extension in the short term but eventually we will need to make sure that does not block the ability to grow.
“You have to remember that our airport and the lands on the airport generate over $800 million of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). A little over five per cent of Regina’s total GDP is from one property. I hope you agree that the last thing we want to do is stifle any economic opportunity that benefits our community.”
l In 2014 and 2015, Regina lost its United States flights provided by American Airlines and United Airlines. These flights went to the hub cities of Denver, Minneapolis and Chicago. Without them, anyone flying out of Regina to the U.S. and sun destinations needed flights with difficult connections. Since being named CEO in January 2018, Bogusz has been working on restoring some of these flights and he is optimistic it will happen.
“I can commit to you that as CEO, we will not stop until we achieve daily transborder service to a major hub,” said Bogusz. “Now in reality, we believe Denver is the most likely prospect and this is not because I favour Denver over other cities. This is simply because it’s a major hub for United Airlines who has a very strong partnership with Air Canada.”
l Planned improvements on the infrastructure side include upgrading the drainage system on the main runway, adding higher efficiency LED lights to the lighting system and upgrading the approach lighting system.
“By upgrading the approach lighting system, it’ll be safer for planes landing during inclement weather,” said Bogusz. “That means WestJet and Air Canada can make an approach to our airport when we have those heavy snowstorms or big cloud cover because we definitely get those here in Regina.”
l A number of changes for inside the terminal are also in the plans which includes upgrading the pre-security food and retail options. Increasing the size of the international arrivals area is also a priority.
“What we’re hoping to do this year is working on the design work,” said Bogusz. “This is an opportunity to properly welcome guests into our community, an opportunity to welcome U.S. airlines and transborder airlines and to drive those tens of millions of GDP. We hope to have this constructed by the end of 2025.”
The Regina & District Chamber of Commerce is pleased to work with James Bogusz and the Regina Airport Authority to continue enhance the impact on Regina’s economy.