Calgary International Airport (YYC) posted another record year in 2018, thanks to a strategy of being a connecting airport and the growth of e-commerce.
“We grew by 6.6 per cent this year, added a little over a million new guests at our airport, and we topped off at 17.3 million people coming through our airport,” airport authority president and CEO Bob Sartor told Global News.
“And for a city our size, that’s punching well above our weight.”
Sartor said being a travel hub has been a core part of the airport’s strategy for a long time, helping the airport weather a still-recovering Calgary economy.
“And we continue that strategy today. Connections are critical. If you’re not a connecting airport, you’re going to grow at the rate of GDP and we really wanted to grow at a much higher rate. So we have worked really hard at becoming a great connecting airport.”
“Our connecting traffic as a percentage of our total business it the highest in Canada — higher than Vancouver, higher than Toronto — so that’s really the key.”
In 2018, the Calgary Airport Authority reported a 6.6 per cent increase in passenger traffic at YYC and has seen positive growth since 2014.
Another factor in the increased number of passengers has been airlines replacing an aging fleet with larger craft, like WestJet Airline’s recent addition of Boeing 787 Dreamliners, which will be based out of Calgary International.
“The 787 carriers way more passengers than the 767 carried,” Sartor said. “So routes like London-Gatwick are going to be much bigger and better for us because they’ll be able to carry more passengers.”
Baggage cargo carried within passenger aircraft has seen steady increases industry wide, Sartor said, including in Calgary. But a long-term project of expediting the handling of freighter cargo has made YYC the major player of air-bound freight in the province.
“We currently generate more than 75 per cent of the inbound and outbound cargo for our province out of our airport and we expect it continue to see cargo to grow, particularly with the proclivity of people to buy online. So you’re going to see a different kind of cargo — e-commerce driven cargo.”
Sartor admitted the lack of a rapid transit line to the airport puts Calgary behind other Canadian airports like Toronto, Vancouver and soon, Montreal.
“That will put us at a competitive disadvantage from a campus development perspective. Bringing jobs to the campus and job densification on campus does require rapid transit,” he said. “But from our perspective, we still see great growth opportunities here at the airport, we just need to keep doing what we’re doing.”