More travel helps airport drive economic recovery

1 September 2021

Air travel — a vital component of Central Vancouver’s Island recovery — is rebounding at Nanaimo Airport.

An estimated 20,000 passengers safely flew in and out of the airport in July. The total reflects a pattern of steadily increasing domestic travel that coincided with B.C.’s reopening under the guidance of chief public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. In June the airport saw 11,000 passengers. May’s count was 7,600.

More route options, enhanced safety protocols, a return of tourism, and pent-up demand for travel are driving the rebound. Air Canada resumed its direct Nanaimo-Toronto flight in the summer. WestJet added a Nanaimo-Edmonton route. The airlines also increased the number of flights to their hubs in Vancouver and Calgary.

More traffic at the airport means more economic benefit to the region, notes Dave Devana, Nanaimo Airport’s president and chief executive officer. The airport directly and indirectly sustains thousands of jobs that support Central Island families. It’s an essential transportation hub. And it serves as the Island’s gateway to the world’s destinations, markets and job opportunities.

Nanaimo Airport Commission has begun a $28.8-million capital plan that will further drive economic recovery. The plan calls for improvements to the airport over the next five years.

The rebound in passenger volume is in its infancy as the airport strives to return to pre-pandemic levels. July’s passenger count was approximately 50 percent of the July 2019 traffic. After setting a passenger volume record in 2019, the airport saw a 65% decrease in 2020.

The next step in the recovery requires a relaxation of Canadian restrictions on travel to international destinations, especially the U.S. The federal government is launching COVID vaccination certification for international travel.

Nanaimo Airport anticipates air travel will return to pre-pandemic levels sometime in 2023.