University student Briar Mayoh was greeted with cheers, balloons and gifts on Wednesday when she became the two millionth passenger to travel through Victoria International Airport this year.
She was met in the arrivals rotunda by mother Kim Mayoh, boyfriend Devin Poulin and her five-old Maltese dog Suki — along with about 100 people there to celebrate the milestone.
Briar Mayoh, 19, was on a Pacific Coastal Airlines flight from Kelowna when a flight attendant approached and asked her to speak to another staffer. “He went: ‘Congratulations.’ It really surprised me. I definitely thought I was in trouble for something,” she said with a laugh.
At the airport’s celebration ceremony, she received a four-piece luggage set, a return-trip flight voucher for Pacific Coastal Airlines, free airport parking and a night at the Fairmont Empress.
The graduate of Royal Bay High School is returning to live at home with her Langford family after spending a year-and-a-half studying biochemistry at the University of B.C.’s Okanagan campus. Her plan is to earn a master’s degree in neuroscience.
She wrote her final exam for the fall term on Tuesday evening, and is transferring to UVic in January to resume classes.
Briar’s mother is thrilled that her middle child is coming home, saying they are very close.
Geoff Dickson, airport president and chief executive, said that accommodating two million passengers in one year is an “amazing accomplishment for this airport.”
“It’s amazing in that over the last number of years, our carriers have added an incredible amount of air capacity to this region and we have seen our growth forecasts achieved,” Dickson said.
“We actually thought we would be at two million passengers in 2021. And here we are, just nearing the end of 2018.”
A total of 1.9 million passengers went through the airport in 2017, an increase of 4.2 per cent over 2016.
The higher-than-anticipated passenger flow speaks to the strength of the local economy, Dickson said.
“Businesses have chosen to set up in Victoria. They know they can do business from an island, and it speaks to hard work and commitment of our tourism industry for creating world-class destinations in this wonderful region that we live in.”
Dickson also praised the businesses that operate on airport lands.
Since the Victoria Airport Authority, which runs the airport and its lands, was created in 1997, a total of $189 million has been invested in the facility.
It is currently in the midst of a $19.4-million expansion of the terminal building, expected to take 27 months. This will be the largest individual capital expenditure so far.
As a result of reaching the two million passenger figure earlier than expected, the airport has brought forward needed infrastructure improvements, Dickson said.