Abbotsford opens terminal expansion


Targetting ultra low-cost carriers paying off for airport

Abbotsford mayor Henry Braun, surrounded by local politicians and Swoop president Steven Greenway, cuts the ribbon to open the YXX expansion. (Photo: Brett Ballah)

Riding a wave of explosive growth in Canada’s ultra low-cost aviation industry, Abbotford Airport officially opened a $5 million expansion Thursday, doubling the size of its former terminal.

“Abbotsford is cheap,” said Swoop Airlines president Steven Greenway, in the Vancouver suburb for the ceremony, explaining his rationale for partnering with the airport, about 50km east of the main Airport in the region, Vancouver International.

“The airport gets it. The local council gets it. They provide a facility which is great but it’s cheap. The problem we’ve got today in Canada is that airfares are too expensive. We can offer cheap airfares, but we need partners like Abbotsford Airport to be able to offer cheap facilities that work.”

Swoop operates flights to Edmonton and Hamilton from Abbotsford, along with flights to sun destinations in the United States and Mexico.

The expansion adds two gates to the terminal, giving capacity for 800 passengers in the hold room. The expansion also includes a new customs hall and new baggage carousel that can handle two simultaneous arriving flights.

A new baggage belt sits in pieces awaiting installation in the customs hall at Abbotsford International Airport. (Photo: Brett Ballah)

Unlike many airports in Canada, Abbotford does not charge an Airport Improvement Fee, and has $17 million in the bank.

The field has come a long way since the city bought it from the federal government for $10 in 1997.

In 2018, the airport handled more than 800,000 passengers for the first time, and expect to hit one million by the end of 2019.

Abbotsford mayor Henry Braun said the airport made more than $2 million last year.

“It’s running a business,” he said. “We do it out of other fees that we have, industrial buildings that we lease out.” Including, he added 320 acres of raspberry fields next to the runway.

Arriving Swoop passengers were the first to use Abbotsford’s expanded terminal Thursday. (Photo: Brett Ballah)

Swoop rival Flair airlines also serves Abbotsford, along with Swoop parent Westjet , which flies to Calgary from the Vancouver suburb. Swoop will add service to London, Ontario this summer from Abbotsford, and will extend a seasonal route to Las Vegas through the summer.

Braun said Abbotsford will continue to target value passengers who want to fly across the country to see their friends and families. He said the target is to reach 2.5 million passengers within 10 years.

Other improvements include upgrading the Airport road to four lanes, and talk of improving transit connections to the Airport, which are virtually non-existent at the moment.