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Abbotsford International Airport on track for busiest-ever year

Low-cost carriers, no airport improvement fee and demand for domestic travel has lured travellers
About 1.2 million passengers are expected to pass through Abbotsford International Airport this year

Abbotsford International Airport (YXX) this year expects to see a record 1.2 million passengers either arriving or departing through its gates.

That estimate from airport general manager Parm Sidhu compares with what he said was the previous record: 1,008,176 passengers in 2019

Vancouver International Airport (YVR)'s passenger volume, in contrast, remains more than 10 per cent below pre-pandemic levels

Part of the reason why passenger volume has recovered faster at YXX than YVR is that YVR has more international flights, and international travel has been slower to recover than has domestic travel. 

The vast majority of YXX's flights operate within Canada, while airlines also fly out of Abbotsford to Mexican sun destinations, such as Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. There are no flights between YXX and U.S. cities.

YXX's passenger-volume recovery has also come thanks to strong consumer demand for discount airlines. Most flights out of YXX are on ultra low-cost carriers, such as Swoop and Flair Airlines.

Sidhu's confidence that his airport will achieve record passenger volume this year was strengthened today by news that Swoop will reinstate several routes out of Abbotsford. 

Swoop plans to resume the Abbotsford-to-London, Ontario, route that it operated pre-pandemic, as well as seasonal service between Abbotsford and Hamilton, and between Abbotsford and Charlottetown.

The airline already flies between Abbotsford and Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto, Sidhu said.

Flair Airlines flies out of Abbotsford to Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, and soon Kitchener. It also has flights to Mexican sun destinations. 

This summer, Sidhu expects Swoop and Flair to each operate 56 flights per week out of his airport, while WestJet operates 35 flights per week. Air Canada does not currently fly out of YXX.

"We have got direct destinations into all parts of Canada now," Sidhu told BIV. "We've got Edmonton, Calgary Winnipeg, Toronto-Pearson, Hamilton, Kitchener starts in May, London [Ontario] starts in May. Those are big centres."

He credits his airport's lack of an airport improvement fee as part of its attraction to airlines and to passengers.

The Vancouver Airport Authority raised YVR's airport improvement fee for those flying outside B.C. to $25 from $20 on Jan. 1, 2020.

"Not having an airport improvement fee allows the low-cost air carriers – Swoop and Flair – to really stimulate travel," Sidhu said. "We had fares as low as $9 one way to Alberta this past winter. Just look at some of the fares: $27 to Edmonton."

Swoop's flights between Abbotsford and London, Ontario, are set to be as low as $39 one way including tax, according to the airline.

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