A new baggage claim area at Abbotsford International Airport opened last month. The new area is part of a $5 million expansion of YXX’s terminal. City of Abbotsford image

A new baggage claim area at Abbotsford International Airport opened last month. The new area is part of a $5 million expansion of YXX’s terminal. City of Abbotsford image

Passenger counts continue to soar at Abbotsford International Airport

Number of travelers at YXX has risen 60 per cent over last two years

Abbotsford International Airport had another record year in 2018, with two years of significant growth pushing passenger numbers closer to the one million mark.

Around 840,000 passengers passed through the city-owned airport last year, up nearly 165,000 from the previous record-breaking year.

Over the last two years, passenger counts at the airport have risen nearly 60 per cent; in 2016, around 530,000 people were serviced at YXX. Another year of similar growth could see the airport hit the million-passenger mark for the first time. Indeed, the yearly figures seem destined for some improvement because the bulk of last year’s new passengers came over the last five months of 2018. Both November and December saw passenger increases of more than 50 per cent.

The yearly passenger numbers were released Wednesday as the city prepares for the grand opening of the airport’s terminal expansion. The $5 million project was set to add 14,000 square feet of floor space, more seating and a new baggage claim area, among other improvements. Parts of the expanded area opened to the public in December.

Last year’s record numbers came as WestJet-owned Swoop Airlines began flying out of YXX in June. The airline is offering regular flights to several Canadian destinations, as well as to Las Vegas and Mexico.

WestJet, Air Canada, Flair and Swoop all fly out of the airport.

“Abbotsford International Airport continues to be recognized as a competitive regional gateway enabling economic growth across our region,” Mayor Henry Braun said in a news release. “The expansion of YXX and this year’s record breaking passenger volumes support the economic vitality of the region, while adding greater accessibility and convenience for travelers.”

Abbotsford has been touted as a model for other airports, and low-cost carriers in particular have trumpeted YXX’s low-fee approach. But the increased local competition has not come without some controversy.

Last fall, Canada’s Competition Bureau launched a probe into whether WestJet and Swoop were using unsustainably low fares to crowd out competition and, in particular, Flair Airlines.

The interim competition commissioner stated that prices appeared to have been lowered below cost on three Edmonton routes, including that to Abbotsford. Some WestJet tickets between the two cities started at $39. WestJet’s vice-president of pricing and revenue management is set to appear before the commissioner later this year.

– with files from Canadian Press

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