Question 710-18(2): Yellowknife Airport Terminal Hours of Operation

MR. SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a question for the Minister of Transportation this time. In the January 9th issue of the Hay River Hub, there was a story about Hay River resident Wayne Bennett. He and his wife, Lenie, landed in the Yellowknife airport in the early morning hours on December 28th. They had planned to stay at the airport for the four hours until their flight left for Hay River. However, apparently the airport closes after the last flight of the night and re-opens two hours before the first flight departs. Mr. Bennett called around, but there were no hotel rooms available, which can happen in Yellowknife if there is a conference or an event. So my first question to the Minister is: what hours is Yellowknife Airport open? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Masi. Minister of Transportation.

HON. WALLY SCHUMANN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. At present, the Yellowknife terminal is actually closed for 90 minutes each night, approximately from 2:00 to 3:30 a.m. in the morning, if there are no scheduled flights arriving late or anything departing too early. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SIMPSON: The story continues. A stranger who was on the same flight as the Bennetts overheard Mr. Bennett’s conversation with his wife, and, out of the blue, he said, “We have an extra bedroom at home. You can come spend the night with us, no problem. You won’t be left alone.” That helpful stranger was Yellowknife City Councillor Adrian Bell. My second question to the Minister is: what happens with people who want to stay at the airport overnight when it’s closed and Councillor Bell isn’t around?

HON. WALLY SCHUMANN: I believe it is very rare. It’s unfortunate this incident happened, in this particular case, but I think it’s very rare that there are people around the airport that late at night. Typically, I believe the department would probably be telling people if it was closing down, and then they would be making arrangements to get to a hotel or make other arrangements. It’s an inopportune situation, but at present the airport is closed between 2:00 and 3:30 in the morning.

MR. SIMPSON: That is not the only person who I have heard has run into this problem. If you are looking at the middle of December, I mean, what do you do? It’s freezing outside – 90 minutes, that will kill you.

So I just want to ask the Minister: 90 minutes is not a long time. There is probably security; there is probably somebody at the airport. I’d like to ask the Minister: can he commit to keeping the airport open for that extra 90 minutes so it’s open 24 hours a day to avoid these kind of problems in the future?

HON. WALLY SCHUMANN: I thank the Member for this question because as the proposed Revolving Fund moving forward this would allow us the opportunity under that to have this type of decision come forward and have the airport open 24 hours.

MR. SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So I know when there’s something on the table; like I said earlier, the government doesn’t make a decision until that thing happens. So I’ll rephrase the question: will the Minister commit to keeping the airport open 24 hours a day if Bill 7 passes? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

HON. WALLY SCHUMANN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As the Member knows, moving forward we are going to have an advisory board who would be advising us, along with other stakeholders, and this information will be coming forward and this is something that we can look at doing around that after Bill 7 is approved.

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