“Your Flight is Now Ready for Boarding!”
Thunder Bay International Airport Expansion Completed
By Sherry Hanes
With the newly completed expansion design and beautiful décor to the Thunder Bay Airport departure lounge and surrounding halls, it is difficult to say whether passengers actually want to leave or not.
The word is, that the expansion is so nice and so comfortable, and with the addition of more local food services being offered, people are almost forgetting to leave.
The Thunder Bay International Airport was first built 80 years ago, as the Fort William Municipal Airport in 1938, partly as a means of relieving unemployment and during World War II, the Thunder Bay (then
Fort William) airport was home to No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School, part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. The airport was also used as a base for test flights of fighter aircraft being built at the nearby Canadian Car and Foundry factory. Before the two cities of Fort William and Port Arthur merged, it was called the Canadian Lakehead Airport. The airport went under major renovations in 1994 with the construction of a new airport terminal building, including two jetways, a large food court, a gift shop and an arcade. The airport was handed over from the government in 1997 to the Thunder Bay International Airports Authority, a non-profit organization. The airport handled over 600,000 passengers in 2006 for the first time since 2001.As of February, 2019, the airport is, one could say, getting better with age. The primary reason for the much, needed addition and upgrade to the Thunder Bay International Airport, was to expand the secure departure lounge and entryways, giving the airport the ability to accommodate the extra growth in traveler traffic and to help for any changes in the
aviation systems now, and into the future.
The $9 million upgrade, which was cited for the expansion, included $5 million dollars from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation. (NOHFC), through the (then) efforts of Michael Gravelle, Minister of
Northern Development and Mines, and Bill Mauro, Minister of Municipal Affairs and MPP for Thunder Bay-Atikokan, when it first began in September of 2017.
Ed Schmidtke, President and CEO of The Thunder Bay Airport Authority Inc. in lengthy communications with the architects of FORM Architecture of Thunder Bay, and with Tom Jones Construction, also of Thunder Bay, discussed the expansion of the departure lounge, examining all the different variables and alternatives for best efficiency, long term and with considerations for future expansions. During the discussions, it became increasingly clear, that if the Customs Hall was to be expanded as well, they would have to do that outside of the footprint of the existing building. In doing that, they built the hall to accommodate international traffic nicely.
The expansion for the departures lounge has been expanded by better than 50 per cent, from 6100 sq. ft. to 9500 sq. ft. The arrivals area is also more spacious. The extra space comes from moving the Transport
Canada offices to the upper level. The terminal has not seen such a major renovation since 1994.
Another very welcomed upgraded is, the check-in software. In the past, a passenger would have to go to a specific airline stand for screening in preparation for boarding. Now, with the new upgrades, airlines can now use any of the computers and stands in the departure lounge. Federal Agency, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, CATSA, has made travel through the airport more convenient for passengers, with the newly installed, latest technology, for departure screening and Thunder Bay International Airport is the first mid-tier airport in Canada to unveil it.
Along with the departure lounge, adjustments for additional space to provide more food services to travelers and patrons alike, were incorporated into the expansion plan. The volume of travelers and
visitors to the airport, predicated the expansion of the food services area and has increased the number of outlets/restaurants available to the patrons. A number of food outlets themselves, will be local
restaurant/café businesses, who will be offering a larger variety of food and beverage menu selections.
The expansion itself, presents beautifully designed very large windows, showcasing different parts of the natural escarpment and views, that people were not typically able to see before. The esthetics of our
Canadian Shield, is express throughout the entrances and halls of the airport, with warm colours of gorgeous woods and showcasing walls of stunning cut rock. The décor` is definitely engaging and is very well balanced in symmetry. People don’t mind to want to hang around a bit longer and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere.Thunder Bay Airport Posts Third Consecutive Passenger Volume Record For the third consecutive year, Thunder Bay Airport (YQT) has posted record passenger volumes. Volumes reached an all-time high of 869,404 passengers in 2018. Traffic grew by 2.9% over 2017 volumes, compared to
4.5% growth the previous year. Despite the strong numbers, demand shrunk slightly in the fourth quarter of 2018. As demands have grown by 12% over the past three years, it is anticipated, 2019 volumes to
resemble 2018’s and finish in the range of 860,000 to 875,000.
TBIAA (Thunder Bay International Airport Authority Inc.) is the private, non-shareholder corporation, responsible for the operation of the Thunder Bay International Airport. TBIAA receives no government funding for the operation of the Airport. Economic activity related to the Airport is responsible for an estimated $645 million dollars in GDP annually and over 5000 jobs. Customers are encouraged to visit
www.thunderbayairport.com for more information on services and facilities offered by Thunder Bay International Airport. In addition to expanding the airport terminal building, this investment will also
help create 13 jobs and will continue to support new opportunities as passenger volumes continue to increase.
The expansion is considered to be investing in community infrastructure and creating jobs in the North as part of Ontario's plan to create fairness and opportunity during this period of rapid economic change.
The government recognizes that improving transportation infrastructure is vital to long term economic prosperity in Northern Ontario. Today’s investment in Thunder Bay’s airport demonstrates the ongoing commitment to creating increased fairness and opportunities for northerners, by growing the economy, attracting more tourists and creating jobs.The airport has generated over 200 new jobs between 2008 and 2016.The potential return of a Minneapolis or Chicago route is not on the books right now as US carriers have pulled out of many Canadian cities, based on the currency exchange, working against those services, and due to operating expenses, especially for smaller carriers.
Local Food Options Soaring at Thunder Bay Airport. 2019 marks 25 years of food service by Aramark at the Thunder Bay Airport. Aramark’s mission to enrich and nourish lives means responding to consumer trends to create a more fulfilling dining experience. Marking the anniversary, the food services will now include new and local products. Customers will notice the introduction of multiple local food service brands in the Air Terminal Building. Thunder Bay based catering company, Pinetree Catering, will open ‘Nomad’, a new food service café in the secure departure lounge. Nikos Mantis, owner of Nomad, is very excited about opening the newest food café` offering a large selection of local food and beverage options for departing passengers, with a mix of products, that has something for everyone, regardless of the time of day. Starting in mid-January, food service on the public side began overhauling, to showcase new brands including many that are local.
In a personal interview with Ed. Schmidtke, President and CEO of the TBIAA, Mr. Schmidtke had this to say.
Sherry Hanes: “How long have you been President and CEO of the TBIAA Inc.?”
Mr. Schmidtke: “I have worked at the airport since 1989 and have had the pleasure of serving as its President since the fall of 2014.”
SH: “Other than avoiding the actual areas of construction, what unexpected challenges did the expansion pose for you?”
ES: “Careful planning of phased construction in operational areas avoided most of the challenges. The planning was further improved by the superintendent Tom Jones Construction deployed on this project. A
lot of credit is due to Roy Nisula for improving on a good plan. The flexibility, responsiveness and customer service orientation of the Airport Authority’s facility staff also played a major role in keeping
service disruptions down to a minimum.”
SH: “As far as the food services go, what do think is the overall response of the travelers for the different venue choices that are now available?”
ES: “The move to predominantly locally sourced food has been welcomed by travellors. Travellors tell us they like the quality, variety and the effort to support local entrepreneurs. The creativity and hard work
from our two food service vendors, namely Aramark and Pinetree Catering has been a major reason for the initial success of this concept. At last count, the combined number of local companies with food products sold in the Air Terminal Building had reached fifteen companies.” Additionally, Mr. Schmidtke added, “In addition to the Terminal Expansion, the Airport Authority has been benefitting from partnerships and collaborations with other organizations in other ways. For example, in collaboration with NavCanada and Synergy North, the airport now benefits from the installation of remote transfer switches. This innovation, researched and installed by Synergy North, ensures that any break in transmission of power to the airport on its primary line will be switched to alternate line within milliseconds.”
SH: “Who are the different international carriers available for travelers out of Thunder Bay from this airport? For example, I do understand, one can take a direct flight from Thunder Bay to Cuba?”
ES: “Winter charters are available to Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Mexico from Thunder Bay.”
We thank Mr. Schmidtke for his time and extend congratulations to all who made this enormous undertaking possible, without major interruptions to passengers and visitors.
Tom Jones Corporation, General Contractor for this project, is the fourth generation of Jones sons, who are leading Tom Jones Corporation into the future. With an increased focus on business innovation,
bespoke client services and efficient project management, Tom Jones Corporation will continue to evolve as one of Canada's leading construction companies.
Award winning, FORM Architecture Engineering, prime consultant, worked closely with Tom Jones Corp. and the TBIAA, creating the unique design of the distinctively built expansion that was specifically designed and constructed for the challenges of the northern climate. Both companies are exemplary in their commitment to excellence and expertise. The project was designed in collaboration between FORM Architecture Engineering and BBB Architects of Ottawa, Airport Expertise. The design took about eight months to design, with the actual addition was 2750sqft and the renovated space was approximately 19,400 sq. ft. Matthew Mills of FORM Architecture shares, “We incorporated materials that were both indigenous and symbolic to the region such as Birch & walnut, used in the millwork, oak in the ceilings, cedar used at the entrance canopies & cultured stone that reflects the rock layering and formations found in the area. The use of the sites natural light and views were also a critical component to improve the passenger experience. The challenge for the design of the renovation side of the project was to ensure an operating airport while construction proceeded. Security, airline operations, passenger comfort and safety were paramount to the phasing of the project. None of these items could be compromised and flights could not be delayed during the construction period. There were a few adjustments to the design to incorporate further improvement to the departure lounge and addition. items include the design of the Nomad Café Space, to accommodate local food sold by Pinetree Catering. Also, there were adjustments to the CATSA security Screening area to incorporate the newly implemented CATSA plus program to improve the screening process. Lastly, the addition of a new Universal Washroom at the baggage area, for international travelers during customs processing.”
According to Matthew Mills, the interior design was engineered to accommodate possible future expansions. “The limitations of the airports apron space restricted the size and placement of the addition
while maintaining airplane gate spaces. The interior design considered future expansion, to the east end of the departure lounge as the airports needs grow.”
A final question to Mr. Mills was, “What is significant or special about this architectural design, as opposed to other commercial sites, because it is an airport and especially because there are such enormous considerations to account for when it comes to security?”
Mr. Mills responded by saying, “It was necessary to provide durable, clean and modern materials that revitalized the airports appearance. Appropriate security requirements had to be installed to ensure that
airside safety was maintained while not being obtrusive of the passenger experience. An airport needs to be safe however, it shouldn’t feel as if you’re under lock down. We were able to accomplish this by
raising ceiling heights, using new lighter coloured materials and adding a better visual connection between secure and non-secure areas of the airport and allowing natural light to reach the departure lounge from the south and west, which it didn’t previously incorporate.”
The next time you are out and about in Thunder Bay, take a moment to admire the detail in esthetics and distinctiveness, of the magnificent buildings in our city and region and marvel about the many teams of
professionals and trades people, from many different companies, who work together diligently, to create these amazing buildings, from start to finish … one blueprint drawing at a time.
Congratulations to everyone on this great project!
Now! Everyone! Take a well, deserved vacation! . . .
“Your Flight is Now Ready for Boarding!”