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Kelowna airport to receive $18M in federal funds

FILE. Kelowna International Airport, YLW. Global News

Kelowna International Airport is going to get a major upgrade thanks to $18 million in federal funding aimed at helping it recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on air travel.

More than $15.2 million of the new funding is from Transport Canada’s Airport Critical Infrastructure Program to support the expansion of the airport’s combined operations building; the replacement of sections of the terminal building roof; upgrades to airfield lighting infrastructure and the construction of runway end safety areas.

The funding will also support the establishment of facilities and modified airport infrastructure to facilitate improved flow and management of air travellers and airport employees related to COVID-19 testing and screening.

Read more: YLW calls on Ottawa to reevaluate COVID-19 protocols for international travellers

The other $3 million is from Transport Canada’s Airport Relief Fund to help maintain continued airport operations and essential air services for residents and workers in Kelowna and surrounding communities.

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In the Wednesday announcement, Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra said the upgrade to infrastructure may reflect the new reality for airports, as pandemic safety measures potentially drag on.

“We learned lessons more from COVID-19 and how we can optimize the flow of passengers, especially when we require testing and verification of credentials. This will help them build infrastructure… it could be kiosks, could be touchless screens, could be barriers, but it’s meant to facilitate optimization of the flow of passengers, particularly, and getting tested as well.”

Alghabra said for the “foreseeable future” there will be a need for facilities where testing can occur.

Read more: New low-cost airline launches service to Kelowna

While the airport will be the main beneficiary of these funds, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said that the city will experience a spin-off benefit from the investment.

It will offer tourism organizations some stability but it will also support the region’s aerospace sector, particularly KF Aerospace.

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Basran added that there’s cause for the investment to head to Kelowna, noting that passenger traffic numbers have rebounded in Kelowna “quicker than any other airport in the country.”

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“I think it speaks to the desire of people to be here … I know that some people are still hesitant to travel but with the enhanced measures for security and all of the great work that’s happening federally to make sure that air travel continues to be safe, I think that this will help speed up the recovery,” he said.

“We’re certainly looking forward to utilizing these funds to enhance the security and connectivity of the Okanagan region.”

The federal government continues to advise all Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada at this time.

The Airport Critical Infrastructure Program, launched in May 2021, will distribute $571.2 million in funding over five years to airports for eligible infrastructure projects related to safety, security and connectivity to mass transit systems.

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