Record passenger volune at Victoria airport spurs growth

Parking demand continues to outpace growth at the airport.

Passenger numbers at the Victoria Airport have been on a steady incline since 2012.

The Victoria Airport Authority thought it had until 2020 or 2022 to meet increased passenger demand, but numbers released this week show they may have to move faster.

For 2016, the Victoria Airport Authority (VAA) reported it saw 1.85 million people through its gates — an 8.5 per cent jump over the previous year. In 2015, there were 1.7 million passengers — compared with 1.5 million in 2012. Since then, the airport has seen records set in passenger numbers.

That growth, says VAA President and CEO Geoff Dickson, flies against the thought that a slowdown in Alberta’s oil patch would have translated into fewer flights into Victoria.

Speaking at a District of North Saanich committee of the whole meeting Monday, Dickson said aircraft, too, have gotten larger in recent years.

That means more people are coming on various carriers. As well, WestJet increased its flights in and out of Victoria and Delta Airlines and added a new Seattle service last year.

Growth had already spurred the VAA to embark on expansion plans for both its parking for these added aircraft and parking for its passengers.

“The growth in Victoria … I haven’t even gotten to the root of why parking is outgrowing our own growth at the airport,” Dickson said, noting anecdotally that driving to the airport still seems to be a priority for travellers.

In 2016, the airport authority added 323 parking spaces. An additional 297 overflow specs were added. Dickson said they thought they had a lot more time to reach that level of parking.

Now, in order to keep up with the growth they are seeing, he said they have to modify their parking plans over the next two or three years — rather than the next four or five.

North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall said she wonders if this increased traffic can be attributed to population growth in the region. She said the area’s Regional Growth Strategy predicts that by 2038, the population in the south Island will increase by 100,000. She asked how the VAA might prepare for the consummate added traffic.

Dickson said there’s land around the airport property they could use, especially after having moved Willingdon Road further south approximately five years ago.

“There’s a point in time when we outgrow the airport,” Dickson said, noting that could occur when they reach three million passengers a year.

When that occurs, he continued, the VAA would have to look at expanding the airport itself or even building a new, larger terminal elsewhere on the property.

The VAA will continue working this year to accommodate growth. They have plans to repave their secondary runway (the main runway was resurfaced in 2014) and continue to enhance their parking areas. Dickson added a new baggage system, which has been in the works for more than year, is expected to be complete by the end of March.

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