Record June for passengers at Victoria airport

It was a record-setting June for the Victoria International Airport.

There were 136,726 passengers through the gates, beating the previous high for June reached in pre-recession 2008. which saw 132,550.

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Last month’s numbers are also up 10 per cent from the 124,228 passengers in June 2012.

Not only did June break a record, but the year-to-date passenger count is up 2.9 per cent over the same months in 2012, Geoff Dickson, Victoria Airport Authority president and chief executive, said Thursday.

The first half of this year saw 741,243 passengers through the airport, up from 720,486 in the same months last year.

“Utilization of some larger aircraft, a rebound of trans-border traffic and new entrant WestJet Encore has all contributed to the surge in growth,” said Dickson.

Typically, about half the passengers originate here, he said.

“It was strong across the board,” Dickson said. More people heading to Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, and an increased number of U.S. arrivals all boosted numbers.

Passenger numbers translate into economic growth, he said. U.S. visitors to Victoria play a major role in the tourism economy. As well, business links are being forged between the countries.

The Victoria airport handles 1.5 million passengers a year and is listed as Canada’s 10th busiest in passenger numbers.

An $8.1-million improvement project is being rolled out at the airport terminal. Dickson said the goals are to make the airport easier to navigate and to improve on food and retail offerings. The project is scheduled to be completed by spring 2014.

Components of the project include a new food area on the west side of the lower passenger departure lounge. Victoria’s Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub is aiming to open in the fall in 1,400 square feet.

The pre-board security screening area will be expanding into what is now retail space. A central elevator, stair and escalator are being installed to the terminal’s southeast corner, and new furniture is going into the upper passenger departure lounge.

In addition, a bike path around the airport is expected to be finished in September, Dickson said.

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