Airport set for banner year: Kelowna

The Kelowna International Airport hit its all-time record for passengers in 2014, and this year it is on a course to set a new record.

Four out of the first five months of 2016 were recording-breaking passenger count months, with May 2016 seeing 126,674 passengers, 5,269 more passengers than May 2014.

“The benchmark year was 2014 where we first hit 1.6 million passengers,” says Kelowna airport director Sam Samaddar.

As of May 31, 2016, the Kelowna airport has seen 696,007 passengers, putting it on track to beat that 2014 number. By May 31, 2014 the airport had only seen just 656,377 passengers.

“We are seeing very positive growth. I don’t want to jinx anything, but we are certainly on target, we are ahead of our benchmark year,” says Samaddar.

He says a number of factors are playing into the increased passenger traffic.

“We had a very good ski season. If you look at all the local ski hills they all had very good winter years, culminated with the fact the east did not have a lot of snow, Ontario and Quebec, so certainly our ski industry was able to capture some of that market into our area, which certainly helped,” says Samaddar.

“We’ve seen the air traffic from Ontario has grown, we are seeing a lot more visitors from that region coming into Kelowna.”

He says that success can be seen in the fact that the Air Canada flight between Toronto and Kelowna used to be serviced with a 97-seat airplane, but is now serviced with a plane that accommodates 200 passengers.

The Kelowna-Toronto route is additionally serviced by WestJet.

Samaddar says the lower Canadian dollar is also playing a part in the type of traffic the Kelowna airport is seeing.

“You are going to see a lot more traffic going east-west as opposed to north-south, a lot more domestic travel within Canada,” says Samaddar.

He says while passengers may deal with slightly longer lineups at the Kelowna aiport, the airport can handle the increased traffic.

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