Profitable Victoria airport continues growth in 2015

Victoria Airport Authority set to spend $13 million on capital improvements.

Victoria International Airport continues to see capital improvements in 2015.

The Victoria Airport Authority (VAA) is on track to spend nearly the same amount on capital improvements this year is it did in 2014.

Last year, the authority operating the Victoria International Airport spent a little more than $14 million on interior and exterior improvements. Most people would notice, says James Crowley, an expanded security screening area and additional retail and food services on the other side of the security checkpoint. Terminal renovations cost the VAA around $8 million since 2013. One of the larger expenses in 2014 was $7.17 million to re-pave the main runway.

Crowley, a North Saanich member of the VAA board of directors, said the terminal upgrades were designed to improve travellers’ experiences at the airport, while the runway overlay will extend its lifespan.

This year, the VAA plans on spending around $13 million more on such capital upgrades as: an apron expansion ($8.25 million to make room to park two more jets in front of the terminal), public address system ($425,000) and a baggage carousel ($400,000).

“We have to continue making these improvements,” added Gordon Safarik, the board’s other North Saanich representative, saying they help maintain VAA’s commitment to service levels, safety and environmental stewardship.

Safarik noted that additional money from Canadian Air Traffic Safety Authority could add around $5.5 million to their source funding.

The VAA will also spend around $100,000 in 2015 to plan for an expansion of the parking lot. Safarik said the airport experienced high passenger and traffic volume over the Christmas holiday, filling the existing parking areas and forcing vehicles into overflow areas.

According to a presentation made by the board members and VAA President Geoff Dickson to North Saanich District council Jan. 19, that expansion plan will look to make room for an additional 400 vehicles.

The continued growth at the Victoria airport, said Dickson, is keeping pace with the record traffic seen over the last two years.

“We’ve had a record level of traffic since October of 2013,” he said.

As Canada’s 10th-largest airport, Dickson said Victoria averages 120 flights per day, saw approximately 1.64 million passengers and generated $26 million in revenue.

Passenger numbers hovered around 1.5 million per year after 2008, jumping to well above ‘08 levels in 2013. A VAA report estimated 2014 will see that amount rise to more than 1.64 million.

Dickson noted that the VAA has been recognized for its high level of non-aeronautical revenue sources, which in turn has helped the airport have the lowest cost per enplaned passenger in Canada of 12 major airports studied by the Air Transport Research Society. That also helps, Dickson continued, keep their airport improvement fee low.

The VAA report to North Saanich council occurs annually, as outlined in a memorandum of understanding between the two patties, noted Mayor Alice Finall. That agreement calls for the VAA to consult with the municipality, essentially ensuring good relations.

More details can be found in the VAA’s master plan, victoriaairport.com/master-plan.