The Nanaimo Airport on a summer day. (NICHOLAS PESCOD/NEWS BULLETIN)

Passenger numbers ascending at Nanaimo Airport

The Nanaimo Airport handled 201,993 passengers in the first half of 2017

Passenger numbers are reaching new altitudes at the Nanaimo Airport.

According to the latest passenger data, the Nanaimo Airport (YCD) handled 201,993 passengers in the first half of 2017, an increase of nearly five per cent from last year.

Mike Hooper, the airport’s president and chief executive officer, said the airport is on pace see about 350,000 passengers this year. It saw 340,861 passengers last year.

“We are expecting to get a new record for the year and we appreciate the folks in our community who are using the Nanaimo Airport,” he said.

February was the only month when the airport saw a decline in passenger numbers. Hooper said that was due to snowy conditions.

Although the numbers are good, the year-over-year increases aren’t as high as they were last year. Hooper said he’s pleased to see passenger numbers continuing to climb regardless.

“We are delighted with the growth that we’ve got,” he said.

With more people using the airport, it also means more people are searching for flights to and from YCD. According to data provided by from Skyscanner, a search engine that compares airfares and has more than 60 million monthly visitors, the most searched destinations from the Nanaimo Airport over the past six months were Toronto followed by Calgary, Vancouver, Las Vegas and London, England. Other top destinations included Edmonton, Manila and Beijing.

Hooper said he wasn’t surprised by Skyscanner’s data, adding that many passengers end up connecting onto other flights from Vancouver. He said Vancouver Island University is a big factor for a lot of international passengers.

“We get people from around the world,” Hooper said. “We see them going to sun destinations, Europe, Australia, Africa, Asia.”

The rising passenger numbers come despite a decision by WestJet to end its Edmonton-to-Nanaimo service last year, which the airline said was due to a declining Alberta economy and lower demand. But Hooper said that route was “really well used” and the reason WestJet decided to cancel the route was because the airline needed airplanes elsewhere.

“It was because they needed a number of aircraft for flights that they were doing back east and we just got caught up in that, but the load factors were really good,” he said.

To accommodate the rising passenger numbers, the airport is currently expanding its passenger terminal, recently completed construction of a firehall and has added new parking spaces. It’s also spent millions on runway improvements and navigation upgrades over the years.

Hooper said the airport would also like to see public transit service to its facility, adding that the airport has pitched it as a transfer station for the Cowichan Valley Regional District and Nanaimo Regional District transit systems.

nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com