* Record breaking year for passengers, cargo moving through Calgary airport
by RYAN RUMBOLT
Passengers commute at the Calgary International Airport. Calgary International Airport (YYC) once again reached a new passenger milestone in 2017, welcoming a record 16.3 million passengers. GAVIN YOUNG / POSTMEDIA
The YYC Calgary International Airport saw its busiest year to date with more than 16 million passengers flying in or out of the city in 2017.
About four per cent more people travelled through the airport last year compared to numbers from 2016. In total, 16,275,862 passengers travelled through YYC on domestic, international and transborder (Canada-United States) flights.
“We’ve had a couple of years of 1.5 per cent growth, now we’re coming up on four per cent so I think optimism is starting to return,” said Robert Palmer, CFO and VP finance at the Calgary Airport Authority.
The airport celebrated its 16th million passenger in December with a candy buffet for passengers on a WestJet flight headed to Belize.
Domestic passengers made up more than 70 per cent of last year’s total at 11.4 million, with transborder and international flights making up 19.2 and 10.5 per cent respectively.
Palmer said international flights saw the most gains even though they make up the smallest amount of flights.
YYC’s International Terminal has moved nearly five million passengers on more than 21,000 flights since first opening in 2016.
Palmer says business traffic through the airport continues to improve and YYC’s cargo operations, which he called the airport’s “unsung hero,” also saw significant gains last year.
More than 147 tonnes of cargo moved through YYC last year on 69 weekly flights, a number the airport says accounts for 75 per cent of all of Alberta’s air cargo.
“The airport is really a key economic driver for the city of Calgary and southern Alberta region with visitors coming in either for business or for leisure,” Palmer said, adding Calgary has higher than average business travellers compared to other Canadian cities.
“We’ve had 7.7 per cent growth in our cargo last year and that’s attributed to the investment we’ve made in the cargo infrastructure at the airport.”
2017 saw a number of airlines add dozens of flights to YYC’s route network.
WestJet, YYC’s largest customer, added 52 additional flights to its 2017 winter schedule, including new destinations like Belize City and Nashville.
The airline has also announced 72 more flights for the 2018 summer schedule and an expanded regional air service called WestJet Link, which has now been delayed until June.
Air Canada also added capacity on its London, Hawaii and Newark services last year, along with additional flights to San Francisco.
Palmer said expansions to YYC’s terminal and runways helped make the additional flights a reality. He says the airport is always planning 20 to 30 years into the future when thinking about new infrastructure projects.
YYC is Canada’s fourth busiest airport, coming in behind Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and the Vancouver International Airport. Toronto Pearson International Airport remains the country’s most used hub with more than 39.8 million passengers as of October 2017.
YYC 2017 passenger volumes by the numbers:
Total domestic passengers: 11.44 million or 70.3 per cent
Total transborder passengers: 3.12 million or 19.2 per cent
Total international passengers: 1.72 million or 10.5 per cent
August domestic: 1,201,070
August transborder: 297,294
March international: 178,738