The grounding of Boeing 737-8 MAX in March was one of the reasons behind the drop in passengers travelling through Victoria International Airport in 2019. (Black Press Media file photo)

Victoria International Airport likely won’t see two-million passengers in 2019

Grounding of Boeing 737-8 MAX in March among the reasons behind the drop

A spokesperson for the Victoria International Airport predicts about 1.94 million passengers will have travelled through the facility by the end of 2019. Last year, 2.046 million passengers travelled through the facility, setting a new record.

Rod Hunchak, director of business development and community relations, said the airport has seen what he called “unprecedented growth” during the last decade, adding that not many airports have seen continuous growth year after year.

“It’s unfortunate [that numbers dropped], but it is not out of line with what would happen at the other airports across the country. Like I said, the indications are that this is a temporary situation. We are always projecting growth … and the trend is always for positive growth anywhere between two and three per cent a year.”

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Latest available numbers from October show 159,369 passengers for that month, down 8.5 per cent from October 2018. Year-to-year, the number of passengers dropped by 6.1 per cent. Total aircraft movements were also down in October (dropping 9.4 per cent) and year-to-year (dropping 7.8 per cent). This said, aircraft have handled more cargo, with the rate rising 27 per cent in October compared to October 2018 and 12.9 per cent year-to-year.

Hunchak cited a number of a factors for the decline, which has taken place throughout 2019.

Hunchak said one “significant” factor is the grounding of the Boeing 737-8 MAX in March following two crashes within five months that killed a total of 346 people.

“That has affected the number of available seats flying in and out of Victoria,” he said. “When you have less available seats, you have less available passengers.”

Hunchak added this phenomenon is not unique of Victoria, with other Canadian airports have experienced it also.

The aircraft remains grounded and Boeing announced this month that it plans to temporarily suspend construction of the plane. “It’s really hard to predict at this point,” said Hunchak, when asked what impact, if any, Boeing’s decision would have on passenger numbers.

Victoria International Airport also lost direct service to Seattle following a decision by Delta. United Airlines had earlier cancelled service to San Francisco.

But at the end of day, passengers counts are still “very good,” he said.

Victoria International Airports ranked as Canada’s 11th busiest airport in 2018 and will add capacity next year.


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