Sarnia’s is the latest to join a group of southern Ontario airports that meet regularly to discuss operations and planning.
And the $3,000 membership fee for Sarnia to be in the Southern Ontario Airport Network(SOAN) is well worth it, said Daniel Byskal, assistant city solicitor and risk manager with the City of Sarnia.
“I’m anxious to move forward on it, because it provides a lot of benefit for relatively low capital investment,” he said.
Sarnia officially joined SOAN in the early days of 2019, after membership was granted in November, he said.
The network, including airports in Toronto, Hamilton, London, Oshawa, Peterborough and elsewhere around the province’s south, meets quarterly to discuss goings-on with Transport Canada, he said.
As Pearson International Airport in Toronto grows, the talks help other feeder airports around it coordinate with one another, share concerns, and plan for disruptions that could be exacerbated by construction projects, he said.
“We want to make sure that we’re ahead of the game, rather than finding out about it afterwards,” he said.
Members also get first crack at surplus items from Pearson, he said. Sarnia, for instance, just came into $20,000 worth of airport seating for free.
“We just have to go there and pick it up,” Byskal said.
Some of the chairs in Sarnia’s terminal, before going through security, are in need of replacing, he said.
Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport Operator Clare Webb said he plans to get them in about a week.
Their installation should cap a recent renovation project at the airport, spurred by a need to add more seating, after Air Canada started using 37-seat planes here, up from 18-seaters, in November.
A storage area was opened up for more seating and room for security equipment, in the section after clearing security, Webb said. Frosted glass was also added.
“It has a much better feel,” Byskal said.
“The whole feng shui of the office and flow is a lot nicer.”
Final touchups remain, Webb said, noting airport personnel took on parts of the job to keep costs down.
The city had allocated up to $17,000 for the project. The final bill is pending.
There are currently two flights at the airport, Webb said, and a third, mid-day, could be coming in May.
“We’re finding it much more reliable, on-time service,” he said about the switch to larger planes.
There’s been a “vast reduction” in flight cancellations, added Byskal.
The city and the Sarnia-Lambton Chamber of Commerce formed a partnership earlier this year to gauge public input and make improvements to the airport, trying to boost usage.
MBA students at Wilfrid Laurier University are conducting an economic impact study to complement the strategic planning process.
“I think we’re well on our way to coming up with the strategic plan,” Byskal said.