YYC sets all-time record for travel numbers in 2018

The Calgary International Airport says the number of passenger trips in and out of the terminal topped 17.3 million in 2018, the highest it's ever seen.

'We've worked really hard to become an easier airport for airlines to operate in,' says airport CEO

Bob Sartor says major airlines have been establishing new routes, and American airlines have started to increase trips into Calgary as well. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

The Calgary International Airport says the number of passenger trips in and out of the terminal topped 17.3 million in 2018, setting a new record.

Airport officials say that's about a million more trips through the facility than in 2017.

"We've worked really hard to become an easier airport for airlines to operate in," said Calgary Airport Authority president and CEO Bob Sartor.

Sartor said the majority of those passengers flew domestic routes, but noted that the airport is seeing an increase in American and international travellers.

He also said major airlines have been establishing new routes, the airport is seeing new low-cost carriers, and American airlines have started to increase trips into Calgary as well.

An economic driver, says YYC

But Sartor believes one of the biggest growth drivers in recent years is YYC's growing role as a western Canadian connecting airport.

"It speaks to how important a hub Calgary is for our two major carriers, in particular WestJet, bringing people from other parts of Canada and Northwestern U.S. into Calgary, and then basically flying them to other parts of the world," he said.

York University business professor Fred Lazar isn't surprised by the latest YYC numbers.

"WestJet always had Calgary as a primary hub, and they've been building that up, and Air Canada has resorted now to developing Calgary as, I think, their fourth major hub across the country to serve primarily connections through to Asia."

All this follows relatively slower airport activity in 2015 and 2016, when air passenger growth numbers increased by just under 1.5 per cent for each year.

"Clearly business travel was challenged here," said Sartor. "Obviously the oil and gas industry is a major driver of our economy, both in Calgary and throughout Alberta."

YYC officials say the airport currently offers non-stop flights to more than 80 domestic and international destinations with more than 270 daily flights.