Fredericton Int’l Updates & Expands its Terminal

Fredericton Int’l Updates & Expands its Terminal
Author: 
Victoria Soukup
Published in: 
July-August
2021

Fredericton International Airport (YFC), in Canada’s far northeast corner, was built more than a half century ago to accommodate 200,000 passengers annually. The original building and facilities served their purpose aptly until about 10 years ago, when the New Brunswick airport began experiencing steady growth. By 2019, YFC hit a record passenger load of 427,000 annual passengers—more than double the amount its facilities could reasonably handle.

Since March, YFC has had an essentially new terminal designed to accommodate growth for 25 years and beyond. Moreover, renovating and expanding while air traffic dramatically slowed during the COVID-19 pandemic allowed contractors to finish four months ahead of schedule and a half-million dollars under budget.

“The terminal was built in the 1960s, so you can just imagine the work that was needed to upgrade the facility,” says Johanne Gallant, president and chief executive officer of Fredericton International Airport Authority. “We were over capacity for a long period of time, and with 10 years of growth at a 5% average rate of growth in each of those years, we desperately needed this expansion and renovation.”

facts&figures

Project: Terminal Renovation & Addition

Location: Fredericton (NB) Int’l Airport

Cost: Nearly $32 million

Funding: $9 million federal; $9 million provincial; government, $9 million (CAD); $14 million airport

Size: Terminal expanded from 38,000 sq. ft. to 62,000

Construction: June 2019–March 2021

Architecture, Interior Design, Engineering, Baggage System Design: Stantec

Project Manager: Mathers Project Management Consulting Inc.

Construction Manager: BIRD Construction

Baggage System: Alstef Group (formerly Glidepath)

Civil Work: KDB Engineers/Contractors

Electrical: Dobbelsteyn Service & Maintenance Ltd.

Paving: Hogan Paving Ltd.

Steel Work: Tek Steel Ltd.

Roofing: Atlantic Roofers Inc.

Drywall & Ceilings: Fundy Pros Specialty Construction Inc.

Plumbing: Beaulieu Plumbing & Mechanical Inc.

HVAC: Brunswick Sheet Metal Ltd.

Flooring: F.R.S. Flooring Solutions Inc.

Aluminum Windows/Aluminum Doors: Royal Door Ltd.

Seating: Arconas/Active Office

Millwork: Country Charm Woodworking Ltd.

Carpeting: Shaw

Tile: Casalgrande Padana

Sheet Vinyl: Armstrong

Flight Information Display System: Terminal Systems Int’l

Food & Beverage Service: Chess Piece Patisserie & Café

Cost of the project was nearly $32 million, with the provincial and federal governments each providing $9 million, and the airport self-funding $14 million through user fees and borrowing.

All three entities are pleased with the return on their investments. Gallant considers the airport’s new food and beverage service and seating with chargers important 21st century improvements. She also notes that YFC is now roomier and more maneuverable. “Our security lines are more efficient, and the equipment is more efficient,” she specifies. “The flow of passengers in the ticketing area is quite better. And we desperately needed the additional space in our secure holdroom.”

Local Involvement

The Airport Authority’s preference for using local firms, labor and materials proved pivotal to successfully completing the two-year project. “It was the right decision to concentrate on having local partners,” Gallant reflects. “If we had to bring individuals or materials in from other provinces or countries, it would have been a problem during the pandemic.”

The project expanded the terminal structure from 38,000 square feet to 62,000, and changed the pedestrian flow to make it more efficient. Improving all critical areas, from security and baggage to concessions and gates, required contractors to strip the entire structure down to its steel columns. A multi-purpose area previously used for international arrivals and winter sun charters was repurposed to accommodate passengers during construction.

“All the walls were taken out,” explains Kyle Mathers, of Mathers Project Management Consulting Inc. “You could see through the entire terminal structure to the other side. There was nothing left.”

In the first phase of the project, the multi-purpose area was used for ticketing, departures and baggage drop while permanent areas for those functions were under construction. During the second phase of work, the area was used for arrivals. 

“It certainly was a tight fit in that area,” Mathers recalls. “Passengers and tenants using the space immediately recognized the need for an upgrade. [But] the temporary passenger movement flows during construction worked so well that even in the temporary quarters, everyone was walking in the right direction. In the old terminal structure, the flows were all broken up. It was apparent right away that people were going to like the new terminal with the improved passenger flow.”

Light & Airy Interior

The biggest visual change is the terminal’s raised ceiling, which adds an airside area with abundant natural light from large windows and skylights. The corridor that leads passengers to their aircraft has a wall of windows that provides natural light and views of the apron.

“The previous facility was very low,” says Ian MacLaughlan, project manager at Stantec. “You almost felt like you were down in a tunnel.”

To add more natural light on the landside, designers expanded the entranceway. “It helped open up that area, so there is now an entirely new feel,” MacLaughlan explains. “The terminal is located in the capital of the province, and when you’re walking into a transportation hub in the capital you always want that feeling of prominence.”

Ticketing & Baggage Improvements

Ticket counters were consolidated from two areas into one to help maintain consistent passenger flow in one direction. The baggage drop area was also updated from two rooms to one, to eliminate confusion and additional steps needed when flights arrived or departed. The airport installed a new Glidepath baggage handling system to improve efficiencies and accommodate flights with large amounts of baggage.

“Previously, it was always a manual decision as to which room the bags should be sent to,” Mathers says. “It wasn’t efficient. The new design has
a single bag room that is shared by all carriers and ground handlers. It allows for a smoother and easier flow and is more ergonomic and safety-focused for those who load the baggage onto carts.”

To alleviate bottlenecks during passenger screening, the security area was expanded from one lane to two, and a Smiths CTX 5800 computed tomography system was installed. “It’s such an improved area,” reports Mathers. “Passengers feel so comfortable now going through security.”

The CTX 5800 is designed to provide high-resolution 3-D imaging for quick, accurate threat detection in a small footprint for installation in space- or weight-restricted environments. “This new machine was installed by Canadian Air Transportation Security to update YFC’s old baggage screening machine and support its new baggage operation,” says Mathers.

Larger Holdroom

Post-security, YFC expanded the holdroom and installed new Arconas seating in bright colors, bringing total seating capacity to 280 passengers. “Our holdroom can now accommodate a proper number of passengers for the size of flights which are coming through,” comments Mathers.

The Flyaway model seating has intermediate tables and inPower Flex 3 units, which allow passengers to charge personal devices from the comfort of their seats. 

“The blue, green and grey upholstery was inspired by the natural landscape of Fredericton, and the province of New Brunswick as a whole,” explains Lynn Gordon, vice president of business development for Arconas. “In addition to enhancing the aesthetics of the terminal, it was important to provide the best passenger experience by including a power solution for passengers to charge their devices conveniently in their seat. The inPower Flex 3 power modules installed each have one AC receptacle, two USB-A ports and two USB-C ports.”

The airport also added food and beverage service to the holdroom area. Previously, the only post-security options for passengers were snacks and drinks from vending machines, or beverages sold by a vendor through a small window during particularly busy travel times.

Chess Piece Patisserie & Café, a local French pastry shop, now offers airside and groundside service at the airport. Its menu includes coffees, desserts and light from-scratch meal items such as soups, sandwiches and quiches. Alcohol is also scheduled to be available landside and airside at the café, which has seating. “That is such a big improvement,” says Mathers. “We are all so excited about this addition.”

From an operational standpoint, the new holdroom can accommodate up to six separate boarding positions, double the airport’s previous capacity. Each of the A, B and C positions has two counters for check-in. “Once you are behind that counter, you are in the airside corridor that leads passengers to their aircraft loading position,” Mathers explains. Passengers then exit the corridor and walk to their aircraft for boarding via mobile stairs or ramps.

“Fredericton is unique,” Mathers observes. “It’s one of those places where planes come in and land and fill with passengers and head right back out again.”

Heeding input from carriers, which value very quick turnarounds and indicated that bridge loading can slow them down, the Airport Authority opted to save the cost and not install boarding bridges.

Overall, 17 new flight information display screens (which can also display advertisements) were installed in the facility: two in ticketing, one in security, four in the holdroom, five in the arrivals area, two in the airside café, two in the groundside café and one in the groundside restaurant.

Full Steam Ahead

Stantec’s MacLaughlan notes that the project had a tight budget. “Airport officials could see the increased flow of traffic both with arrivals and departures, and knew they had to accommodate that. But to accommodate it, they had to spend money. So budget was a huge challenge. The airport had to spend that money to get the size of structure up to accommodate the traffic.”

From a construction standpoint, the COVID-19 pandemic allowed contractors to move faster than otherwise anticipated. But the airport was also constantly concerned as to whether the project would be allowed to continue.

“We never knew if they were going to shut down the construction project,” Gallant recalls. “We were extremely fortunate that when our community went into lockdown, the government allowed us to continue with the project. Our team met weekly, and we were always trying to get equipment and materials in on time and make sure the employees were safe.”

The project created nearly 600 jobs through on-site employment and the indirect/induced economic impact of the construction. Mathers notes that the project moved along exceptionally smoothly because nearly all the workers lived nearby. “We definitely benefited from having local people working and not having to travel through the provinces or from other countries to get to the jobsite,” he remarks. “And they all certainly appreciated being able to keep working throughout the pandemic. Yes, we were affected by continuously changing safety regulations during the pandemic, but we were able to keep the jobsite going because most of the folks were from right around here.”

From a supply chain perspective, time was on the airport’s side because contractors had ordered materials, and in many cases already taken delivery, before COVID-19 was in full force. “We were really fortunate because we started the processes before the pandemic hit,” says Mathers. “Toward the end of the project, we were beginning to see a delay in supplies.”

There was also a more subtle benefit from hiring local workers, consultants and contractors. “A lot of workers felt a connection to the jobsite,” Mathers explains. “The airport is an important place here in Fredericton. Workers would share recollections about experiences they had in the terminal building and enjoyed seeing the inner workings of the airport and improving the airport experience with this project.”

Gallant agrees: “Everyone involved in the project had a sense of ownership. They wanted to do well. They wanted to deliver on this project because it was a key project in our community.”

MacLaughlan notes that the terminal renovation and expansion poise the airport for the foreseeable future. “All the shortcomings of the previous structure have been addressed,” he says. “You walk into the building now and you don’t have a feeling there was an existing structure there. It is a new and very clean feeling—the colors are bright, and the natural light is bright.”

Gallant considers the project a success: “We finished four months ahead of schedule and under budget. And it was complex, doing all that work during a pandemic and still keeping the facility operational. The entire community and the airlines are very pleased with the outcome. We accommodated all our airlines and other stakeholders. We are very proud and very happy with the result; and now we’re ready for the recovery when people start traveling again."

Subcategory: 
Terminals

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