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Victoria airport improvement fee rising to $25 for departing passengers

Departing passengers will pay the new fee for tickets purchased starting April 1 for travel after May 1

The airport improvement fee for passengers leaving Victoria International Airport will rise to $25 for tickets purchased ­starting April 1 for travel after May 1.

The fee, which goes toward capital improvements for the airport, has been $15 since 2015.

The money will help pay for projects including refurbishment of taxiways and upgrading lighting, said airport chief executive Elizabeth Brown.

This year alone, the airport authority is planning to spend more than $23 million on its capital plan.

Keeping the fee at $15 would result in a shortfall of $8 million this year, said Brown, noting the bulk of the capital work will directly benefit airlines.

“Coming out of COVID, the airport was run very fiscally conservative, which was great — there’s no debt currently carried by this airport,” Brown said.

“But as we look forward we have some major infrastructure improvements that need to ­happen.”

When it comes to airport improvement fees, the Victoria airport has been in the lower end among Canadian airports and will remain in that category with the increase, Brown said.

At Fort McMurray, Alta., the airport improvement fee is $40 per departing passenger. Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa charge $35, Vancouver charges $5 for passengers going to B.C. and Yukon destinations and $25 for all other passengers.

“[The increase] is one of those things that we need to move ahead with and we’ve held off for a long time,” said Cathie Ounsted, chair of the board of the Victoria Airport Authority.

“We do see the direct benefit to the region and the economic impact from the airport for the region as well.”

Passenger numbers continue to rebound in the wake of the pandemic.

Last year, inbound and ­departing passenger numbers combined reached 1.74 million, compared with 1.9 million in 2019, pre-pandemic.

In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, total passenger numbers dropped to 574,874, rising slightly the following year to 673,748.

In 2022, total passenger numbers jumped to 1.49 million.

Brown projects this year will wrap up with about 1.8 million passengers.

A consultant has been hired to help update the airport’s master plan.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com