Canada’s Only Privately Owned Airport: Mt Tremblant
by Scott A. Sumner
A great experience on my recent trip to Mt Tremblant was traveling to the Mt Tremblant Airport and meeting Isabel and Serge Proulx, airport entrepreneurs!
“ We are sitting in the Mt Tremblant airport which is the only privately owned airport in Canada. It is a project that we started in 2000. Then 911 happened so everything froze for at least a year.
Transport Canada didn’t issue any permits. We really started our operation in December 2002 for our first skiing winter,” said Isabel Proulx who is in charge of operations and a chartered accountant by training. “ When we started we chartered ourselves a Dash 8 from Voyageur Airways of North Bay. It was a 50 seater and Ultimate Vacations sold packages for us. We did that for 3 years and then Continental and Porter both started the same winter with scheduled
service. By then we were certified, meaning we were able to screen passengers and have the agents present to provide security. It has been an adventure!”
The airport was an old military base that was abandoned and owned by the municipality there. Serge Proulx used to work in master planning for the Intrawest Company, who has developed Mt Tremblant. He wanted to see options to get the passengers here easier. Intra west didn't want to get into the airport business so the municipality asked Serge to do it. Serge is an engineer by training and had credibility, so they tried the project.
“ The runway foundation was 6000 feet. When we started we were only open to 4800. Four years later with some additional paving work we are at 6000 feet. We can accommodate aircraft as large as an Airbus 319. We get the Q400 from Porter Airlines through Toronto and the Embrauer from Continental Airlines from New York,”smiles Isabel. “ There was no terminal building here so Serge created the building in his mind, did a plan and built a little model. The terminal is a log cabin and about 8000 feet in size.”
The airport entrepreneurs earn their revenue with landing fees and the AIF Airport Improvement fee, which is charged, on each ticket. They also get general aviation business.
“ It is going well now. We were affected by the economic crisis but this summer is better. It is an exciting operation to run with a lot of adrenaline. You get planes coming here with quick turnaround times for the passengers. Last winter we had 5 flights per week with Porter all
winter long. We also operate the shuttle service from the airport to Tremblant. You are picked up at your hotel for the return trip here. We have pre done the bag tags and the passenger just goes through security. We also screen their bags.”
The shuttle service is $ 35 per passenger round trip where a taxi would cost $90.
It was fun to see the Mt Tremblant airport and experience their service. It is a pleasant change from the many huge airports we travel through on many trips! As a business story this is very unique and says a lot about the entrepreneurial spirit in Canada today.