Skip to content

Abbotsford in Action: Airport has record-breaking year with almost 1.3 million passengers in 2023

YXX credits affordability as one reason for increase in passenger volume
YXX also becoming top aerospace business destination (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

Last year was one for the record books at the Abbotsford International Airport (YXX).

A new passenger volume record was established with a total of 1,275,484 – an increase of 26.5 per cent over the previous record of 1,008,176 set in 2019.

It’s also an increase of 28.5 per cent over 2022, which saw a passenger volume of 992,712. The past two years have been big bounce-back years after lowered numbers due to restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new record was officially broken back in September. YXX had an extremely busy summer that saw up to 7,400 passengers per day during peak travel days.

YXX general manager Parm Sidhu stated that the affordability of travel out of Abbotsford helped account for the record numbers.

“The carriers we have are actually trying to grow the business,” he said, pointing to YXX partners Flair and WestJet. “They made travel more affordable and accessible. It also showed the pent-up demand for passengers and low fares. People are willing to see our beautiful country and have a better ability to connect with loved ones thanks to our partners.”

Sidhu said the low fares and many available options led to travellers making several trips, sometimes monthly or several times a month. Flair Airlines president Eric Tanner said YXX is the perfect fit for his company.

“The Abbotsford Airport is what we wish every airport in the country was like – low cost and easy to use,” he said. “And what it really allows us to do is pass on incredibly low fares to our customers.”

Tanner said YXX does not have high fees associated with its travel, and that allows Flair more flexibility.

He said he was pleased to hear about the record-breaking numbers, but stated that connecting families with each other has been the most rewarding part of being part of Flair’s journey.

“The numbers aren’t quite as special as the individual stories we hear,” he said. “We hear about family members who are able to reconnect and even make a spontaneous getaway. We help people make trips they have always dreamed about. And places like Abbotsford with low fares make that possible. Those who didn’t fly as much before now can.”

The news wasn’t all positive, though, as WestJet announced the closure of its Swoop brand last June. The final Swoop flights were made in October. Swoop was active at YXX, and Sidhu said its removal will lead to a slight decline in passenger volume for 2024.

He said volume will be down in the first quarter, but will go back up as WestJet increases its presence in Abbotsford and the busier period in the spring and summer returns.

WestJet announced in July that winter flights would be expanded from Abbotsford to Mexico, with direct flights to Puerto Vallarta twice a week and Abbotsford to Los Cabos once a week. WestJet also now flies daily to Calgary year-round and five times a week to Edmonton year-round.

“Abbotsford was integral to Swoop’s success and remains a valuable part of the WestJet Group’s future,” stated John Weatherill, WestJet Group executive vice-president and chief commercial officer.

“As we work through this transitionary period, WestJet’s service from Abbotsford will be centered on our strategic focus of providing non-stop connectivity to the sun destinations we know our guests rely on us for to escape the winter cold.”

Sidhu said he likes the different choices that Flair and WestJet bring to YXX.

“Consumers deserve options,” he said. “They will follow the value proposition.”

He stated that Americans are crossing the border to use YXX, and having so many direct flight options now is key.

One new feature added to YXX in 2023 was the arrival of the Abbotsford airport shuttle. Ace Charters gives travellers the option for a direct ride from the airport to stops in Langley and Surrey.

Sidhu said he reached out to the company because it made sense.

“Our job is to be facilitators of commerce,” he said. “They contacted us for something else and it became a conversation. We have Uber, we have our taxis, rental cars and now this newer option.”

Sidhu also said that road improvements in and around the airport should also help travellers get to and from the airport faster.

On top of the travel benefits, Sidhu said YXX continues to grow as a top destination for aerospace business. Global companies like Conair, Marshall Aerospace, Chinook Helicopters and Cascade Aerospace have had significant presences in Abbotsford for years.

Fast Air hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for their new FBO at YXX and that facility is expected to be opening earlier this year. Sidhu said YXX can still grow and is eager to work with the new companies.

“We are open for business and are a key economic enabler in Abbotsford,” he said. “We are a platform for business and their success is our success.”

READ MORE: Abbotsford in Action 2024

Ben Lypka

About the Author: Ben Lypka

I joined the Abbotsford News in 2015.
Read more