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Calgary Airport sets a record year with 17 million passengers

Passengers on Monday morning, 17 December 2018, will check for departures at Calgary International Airport. The airport prepares for some of the busiest days of traveling in the year as Christmas approaches.

Gavin Young / Postmedia

The volume of passengers at Calgary International Airport jumped by more than 6 percent in 2018, which far surpassed the overall economic growth of the city in the last 12 months.

About 17.3 million passengers visited the airport in 2018, roughly one million more than in 2017. The year-on-year increase of 6.6% represents the fastest growth period that YYC recorded since 2014 when the economy of Alberta flourished. Growth in 2018, however, occurred at a time when Alberta's economy expanded 2.4 percent, according to RBC Economics, and the unemployment rate in Calgary remained high (7.9 percent in December).

Bob Sartor, Managing Director of the Calgary Airport Authority, adds an increase in traffic to ongoing efforts to make YYC the center of connecting flights. Approximately 37% of passengers who traveled to Calgary International Airport in 2018 were on their way to another destination.

"As a percentage of our total volume, Canada is the busiest connecting airport," said Sartor. "What does it mean when a city can have hard times, people are still flying from Regina to Palm Springs or flying from Portland to Tokyo … To some extent we have an airport that is recessive."

The new US $ 2 billion international airport, which was opened in YYC in October 2016, allowed airlines to redirect multiple flights via Calgary, Sartor added. The terminal represents a number of new technologies and processes to simplify the connection – including improved customs and security procedures as well as the possibility for passengers to travel through airports to other destinations without picking up their bags or having to recheck them.

The state-of-the-art take-off, which was opened in 2014, opened more runways in YYC, Sartor added.

"We have tried to bring carriers to bring the aircrafts very attractive," Sartor said. "The connection is the key to a city like ours."

The Airport Authority says last year's cargo increased last year when 75% of Alberta's cargo was processed via YYC Calgary International Airport.

YYC expects to see a further 1 million additional traffic increase in 2019. Up to half of this will be the direct result of Boeing 787 aircraft and the Calgary hangar as Dreamliner. The airline will start direct flights to London (Gatwick Airport), Paris and Dublin in 2019 with its Dreamliners, and also plans to start a 737-minute flight from Calgary to Atlanta in March, as well as the Austin and Portland routes.

Air Canada now includes direct flights to Palm Springs, California, while Aeromexico plans to return to YYC in May with four-week seasonal flights to Mexico City.

"We are in a category where we will be considered a major airport in North America over a number of years," said Sartor.

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