Passengers check-in at the boarding level at Calgary International Airport on the morning of Monday, December 17, 2018. The airport is preparing for some of the busiest travel days of the year as Christmas sets in. approaches.
Passenger volume at Calgary International Airport jumped more than 6 percent in 2018, far surpassing the city's overall economic growth over the past 12 months.
About 17.3 million travelers visited the airport in 2018, about a million more than in 2017. The annual increase of 6.6% represents the fastest period of YYC growth since 2014 when the Alberta economy was growing. However, growth in 2018 occurred during a period when Alberta's economy grew only 2.4%, according to RBC Economics, and Calgary's unemployment rate remained stubbornly high (7.9% in December).
Bob Sartor, CEO of the Calgary Airport Authority, credited traffic growth to ongoing efforts to make YYC a hub for connecting flights. Approximately 37% of passengers passing through Calgary International Airport in 2018 were on their way to another destination.
"As a percentage of our total volume, we are Canada's busiest connecting airport," said Sartor. "What this means is that while the city may be struggling, people are still flying from Regina to Palm Springs or flying from Portland to Tokyo. . . To some extent, we have recession proof our airport. "
A new $ 2 billion international terminal, which opened at YYC in October 2016, has allowed airlines to make more connection routes through Calgary, Sartor added. The terminal features a number of new technologies and processes aimed at simplifying connections – including improved customs and security procedures, as well as passengers' ability to transit from the airport to other destinations without having to pack or need to be traced again.
A state-of-the-art runway – opened in 2014 – has opened more airstrips at YYC, Sartor added.
"We're trying to make it very attractive for carriers to bring planes here," Sartor said. "Connectivity is key to a city like ours."
The airport authority says cargo operations also grew last year, with 75 percent of Alberta's air cargo being processed at YYC Calgary International Airport.
YYC expects to see another increase in traffic of 1 million additional passengers by 2019. Up to half of this will be the direct result of WestJet's Boeing 787 aircraft and the opening of the Calgary hangar as the airline's Dreamliner base. The airline will be launching direct flights to London (Gatwick airport), Paris and Dublin in 2019 with its Dreamliners, and also plans to launch a 737 non-stop flight from Calgary to Atlanta in March, as well as the Austin and Portland routes at Spring.
Air Canada now includes direct flights to Palm Springs, California, while Aeromexico plans to return to YYC in May, with a seasonal service four times a week to Mexico City.
"We are in a category where, in a few years, we will be considered a major American airport," said Sartor.