Kamloops Airport set a new record for passenger numbers in a single year in 2019, despite a dip in the second half of the year.
Statistics released by the local airport show a nearly three per cent increase in passengers over last year’s record-setting totals, up to 361,586 in 2019 from 351,631 in 2018.
As for the fourth-quarter statistics, passenger numbers dipped almost 3.5 per cent, to 91,612, at the airport in October, November and December, compared to 94,710 during the same three months in 2018.
There was a similar trend with third-quarter numbers in 2019, which saw a two per cent drop from the previous year, with 84,748 passengers passing through Kamloops Airport in July, August and September, compared to 86,610 passengers during the same quarter in 2018.
But the first half of 2019 more than made up for that bit of turbulence as Kamloops Airport saw increases of six to 10 per cent over 2018 in each of the first two quarters of the year, according to airport manager Ed Ratuski.
“The first few months of the year are always our busiest and that’s largely due to the traffic up to Sun Peaks,” he said. “We are seeing increased activity up in those areas the last couple of years.”
Ratuski chalked up the dip in second-half passenger counts to a generally slow November that was below forecast for air travel and Air Canada scaling back its number of Kamloops-to-Toronto flights from 2018.
In 2019, the Kamloops-Toronto route operated three times per week from June through September, In 2019, that route was reduced to once per week in July and August.
The Kamloops-to-Toronto flight is available for booking in 2020, but Ratuski said Air Canada has yet to formally confirm if the flight will return this summer. At issue is the uncertainty surrounding aircraft availability, given the still-grounded Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 planes that would have been serving larger airports.
If the flight does return, it is scheduled to again run once per week in July and August.
Ratuski said the year finished strong, with 34,884 people served over the holidays in December. The last three Decembers have seen an average passenger count in the low-30,000 range at the airport, Ratuski said.
Last year, Air Canada also increased seating capacity in its Kamloops fleet by upgrading the planes to Q-400s, but reduced one flight between Kamloops and Vancouver until reinstating it in October.
First-quarter 2020 passenger totals are expected to be strong with the added capacity, Ratuski told KTW.
This year, from late April and into October, Swoop Airlines, WestJet’s budget carrier, will have direct flights between Kamloops and Edmonton
As for a potential hotel at the airport, Ratuski said officials are assessing the proposed site’s current infrastructure before making a decision on what developments will be pursued, be it a hotel or service station.
There is also expected to be a flurry of activity around the entrance to the airport this summer due to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project coming through, Ratuski said, adding there is no anticipated impact to airport operations from the construction work.