Arecord number of travelers used Nanaimo Airport since WestJet started offering direct flights between Calgary and YCD in June.
Air travel had already risen significantly in the spring, with passenger counts up 14 per cent in May and 18 per cent in June. In July and August, numbers of travelers increased 34 per cent against from a year earlier.
It follows a major push to boost reliability and the handling capacity of the airport - a runway extension, instrument landing equipment and lighting, plus terminal building improvements. WestJet made Nanaimo a destination when it added the Q-400 turboprop aircraft to its fleet. The first scheduled flight landed on the tarmac June 24.
Despite Calgary's worst flood in recent memory, WestJet helped drive passenger numbers way up.
The airport saw 24,665 passengers pass through its gates in July, up from 18,308 last year. In August a record monthly total of 26,924 passengers eclipsed last year's 19,954.
"It does break all records," said Mike Hooper, airport president and CEO.
High load factors, or seat occupancy ratios, were high for both major carriers over summer.
"With WestJet, load factors are between 96 and 98 per cent," said Sasha Angus, Nanaimo Economic Development Corp. CEO. "It's my understanding (that is) unheard of in the airline business, in-bound or out-bound. "That's a great indication that the response has been strong."
Not all those new passengers flew on the new Calgary flight. WestJet's 78-seat Q-400 planes could account for a maximum 156 new passengers a day, for a total of about 4,500 passengers a month, not enough to account the 7,000 new passengers in August.
Air Canada offers six flights a day. Island Express now offers flights to Victoria, Abbotsford and Comox, on an eight-passenger Piper aircraft.
Angus said anecdotally, he's heard of more business travelers going through YCD.
In future, Hooper said the airport looks to "better serve folks in the resource sectors in northern Alberta and northern B.C." As to when, Hooper said that's "up to the air carriers when demand warrants those routes."
Members of the public can see Nanaimo Airport up close today, at an open house. Airport staff and Nanaimo Airport Commission members will be on hand to answer questions, and to lead terminal tours.
The open house gets underway at 3 p.m.
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