Kelowna International Airport (YLW) will benefit from $3.2 million in funding from the government of Canada’s Regional Air Transportation Initiative (RATI).
Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for Pacific Economic Development Canada, Harjit Sajjan, made the announcement at YLW on Tuesday (Feb. 22).
YLW is one of 13 regional airports to receive funding.
“This funding will maintain vital links between communities and families and keep businesses connected to their customers and suppliers,” said Sajjan.
Part of the funding YLW will receive will go to routine maintenance and facility operations associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But more importantly, this is about making sure that we look at what the needs were,” said Sajjan. “What I’m also here for is to listen to the needs of what Kelowna requires in the region.”
The minister’s visit to Kelowna also included a meeting with Mayor Colin Basran regarding those needs.
“So we’re talking about how can we bring more economic opportunity?” said Sajjan. “Is not just about business, it’s about creating a wider ecosystem.”
Mayor Basran said the airport continues to grow and exceed demand, almost in defiance of the current economic circumstances.
“YLW has exciting market opportunities as an economic engine for the region,” he said. “However, to take advantage of these opportunities, it will require significant investments like the one made today, and the announcement by minister Sajjan is vital to economic recovery in the Okanagan.”
Airport Director Sam Samaddar was also pleased with the funding announcement.
“This funding supports not only the recovery of YLW but also our surrounding community as we recover from the economic challenges of COVID-19,” he said.
Monette Pasher, interim president of the Canadian Airports Council, pointed out that since the start of the pandemic airports across the country have suffered $6 billion in revenue losses, and have taken on an additional $3 billion in debt.
“So investments from the federal government, like the one announced today, will go such a long way to help our industry start to recover,” she said.
Pasher added providing funding to regional airports and airlines is critical in rebuilding leisure and business travel, as well as tourism and trade opportunities throughout Canada.
RATI has a national budget of $206 million and supports regional air ecosystems, which includes airports and air carriers.