Construction will begin this fall on an expansion of the boarding lounge at Penticton’s airport to make room for bigger crowds expected to come with the arrival of WestJet Encore.
The two-phase project will nearly double the space where passengers who have cleared security wait to board their planes, Transport Canada spokeswoman Sau Sau Liu confirmed in a statement.
The current hold room was built 25 years ago and designed for 50 people, she explained, but planes that WestJet Encore will operate on its Penticton-Calgary flights beginning Oct. 26 have a 78-person capacity and require the airport to make more space available. Liu said a new, temporary hold room at the northwest corner of the airport terminal is expected to be in place by October and have an 80-person capacity.
Once that temporary facility is ready, work will begin on a permanent renovation of the existing hold room to increase its capacity to 90 people, she continued, adding all construction is expected to be completed by December.
The tender for the temporary room closed in mid-August with an anticipated value of up to $249,000.
Liu said the contract will be awarded this month, after which a tender will be issued for the second phase of the project. All costs will be covered by Transport Canada, which owns and operates the airport.
WestJet Encore spokesman Robert Palmer said in a statement the airline has sent the federal agency a modest wish list for the new space.
“There’s really no specific design requirements for us; we work with many different boarding lounge configurations in airports throughout our network. We have asked for a phone line and a data line, but that’s obviously pretty standard stuff,” Palmer said.
The airline will also get a new office at the airport.
Palmer added that since most flights are booked between four and six weeks in advance, the company is expecting to see more interest in the new service as its launch date draws nearer.
“Nonetheless, people are booking flights and we’re satisfied with what we’re seeing at this point in time,” Palmer said.
Transport Canada is also in the midst of an unrelated $6.7-million runway upgrade project at the airport. That work, which takes place during the overnight period to minimize disruptions, began in August and is expected to be completed by October.