Vancouver Island’s two major airports are undergoing critical renovations this year to keep pace with soaring demand.
“We never would have predicted three years ago the kind of growth that we’ve seen,” said Geoff Dickson, president and CEO of Victoria International Airport, adding that there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight for increasing volumes of planes and passengers.
“All things seem to point upward in terms of the strength of the local economy. There’s going to be growth in ultra-low-cost airlines. It’s always difficult to predict downturns, which inevitably there will be, but certainly things look pretty bullish for the medium term.”
Passenger numbers climbed to 1.9 million last year at the airport. That number is expected to exceed two million this year and could reach three million by 2030.
A number of factors are fuelling the growth, Dickson said. “[It’s] being driven by the favourable exchange rates and the continued strengthening of the British Columbia economy and, in particular, the Greater Victoria economy.”
As well, “phenomenal growth” at both Vancouver and Seattle airports has provided for incredible connections into Victoria, Dixon said.
That’s brought about plans for a $19.4-million expansion at Victoria’s airport, doubling the capacity of the ground-level departure lounge.
The 18,998-square-foot addition will stretch from the north end of the existing lounge to create a space totaling 30,839 square feet. The project will serve passengers who now leave the lower lounge and cross the tarmac to board their planes.
The addition will feature six gates, each with its own departure door designated for one aircraft. A seventh gate will be flexible to serve lower-or upper-level passengers.
The new doors will be built on the east and west sides of the addition.
At Nanaimo Airport, where passenger numbers have also been setting records, construction has begun on the first phase of a 20-year, $55 million expansion.
Estimated to cost $14 million, the first phase of the plan is to add 14,000 square feet to the 23,680-square-foot terminal building, including expansion of the area where baggage is X-rayed, an increase in the capacity of the boarding lounge and addition of a food retail outlet.
In 2017, Nanaimo Airport numbers topped 358,000 — a 110 per cent increase in six years.
WestJet and Air Canada currently serve Nanaimo. Passengers can fly non-stop to Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto.