With another record breaking year under their belt, the team at YLW – Kelowna International Airport – has more than 1.6 million reasons to smile.
Flying through the previous 24 months with significantly increased traffic, YLW’s 2014 passenger count tipped the scales at 1,602,988. This growth represents 98,205 more travellers – a 6.53 per cent increase over the previous record breaking year of 2013.
“Exceeding our forecasted 1.6 million passenger mark one year ahead of schedule is quite remarkable,” says Airport Director Sam Samaddar. “If you look back at our numbers 2007 to 2011, we stayed within the 1.3 million range and by 2012 we grew to a passenger count of 1.4 million. After reaching 1.5 in 2013 we were ecstatic to break through the 1.6 million milestone. It may not be long before we start talking about approaching two million travellers. This is pretty incredible.”
As one of the top 10 busiest airports in Canada and third busiest in the province, YLW is one of the single largest economic drivers for jobs and revenues in BC’s southern interior.
“Reaching the 1.6 million passenger mark is not only an accomplishment, but an enormous economic benefit,” explains Robert Fine Director of Economic Development for the Central Okanagan Regional District. “Air service has become a key part of the Okanagan story – with new routes added to San Francisco, Fort McMurry, Cranbrook, and Trail we become more easily accessible for investors, workforce, tourists and technology firms. Each million passengers adds one per cent to the gross domestic product of the Region, and creates a competitive advantage as we continue to be the best air served community of its size in Canada.”
With its airline partners, YLW was also pleased to add several new routes including WestJet service to Fort McMurray and charter operations serving the oil sands in 2014. An extra daily flight was scheduled to Edmonton with WestJet and Air Canada introduced the Q400 to multiple destinations increasing seat capacity. United Airlines replaced daily service from Los Angeles with seasonal flights to San Francisco. Pacific Coastal Airlines most recently commenced connections to Trail, while Air Canada Rouge will begin service this summer to Toronto.
“Achieving this important milestone of 1.6 million a full year ahead of schedule is a direct tribute to the significant efforts of the team at YLW to open up new markets and the collective marketing efforts of the communities of the Region,” said Glenn Mandziuk, CEO & President of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association. “Our Region is rapidly becoming a preeminent visitor destination in North America and this announcement reinforces we are moving in that direction.”
To help support economic growth and also connect air to ground services throughout the Okanagan, a shuttle service was established for both the south and north Okanagan communities. While the 2014 year at YLW was also a busy one for project design and airport development, 2015 marks the beginning of a three year construction phase which will encompass a multitude of projects completed to keep pace with further passenger growth.