Stronger, faster recovery will allow infrastructure development to move forward

Wayne Moore - Apr 27, 2022 / from

Kelowna International Airport expects to outpace its forecast recovery by about 3.5 per cent in 2022.

The improved forecast for passengers rolling through YLW this year was described as one of the "good news stories" to come out of the city's 2022 budget which was finalized Monday.

According to Phillip Elchitz, senior manager of airport operations, the airport is forecasting 1.73 million passengers will come through YLW, as opposed to the 1.67 million anticipated as part of the preliminary budget forecast.

"We are starting to see a recovery that is beyond what we originally forecasted earlier in the year," said Elchitz.

"That's very encouraging for us. It certainly is a big deal."

While the difference is only 60,000 passengers, Elchitz says it's a big deal because all of the revenue for capital projects comes from the Airport Improvement Fee (AIF).

"Any increase in passengers from the original budgeted amount makes a big difference because that's extra cash flow that allows us to look at how we model our capital projects. That allows us to advance our projects."

The AIF is a $25 fee charged to every departing passenger. An additional 60,000 passengers equates to $1.5 million.

The 1.73 million expected passengers is where the airport was in 2016.

Elchitz says following on a path of medium growth, the airport should get back to pre-COVID numbers by 2023 or 2024 when they saw more than 2 million people come through.

Several projects that were deferred when the airline industry was forced to shut down much of its operations throughout portions of the pandemic, are expected to be started in the coming few years.

Elchitz says four will begin this year, thanks to nearly $20 million in federal relief funding.

These include design work for runway lighting upgrades, construction on a safety area at each end of the runway which has been federally regulated and a bio-security enhancement project which will allow YLW to handle any future health-related safety issues such as we're going through now.

The infrastructure funding will be used for the construction of YLW's Combined Operations Building ($7.1 million), the Airport Terminal Building roof replacement ($800,000), airport biosecurity infrastructure ($2.7 million), runway end safety area ($4.5 million) and airfield lighting and support infrastructure ($120,000).