Windsor Airport traffic takes off with 21 per cent increase

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Windsor Star/Craig Pearson


Windsor Airport’s fortunes are continuing to fly, thanks to a 21 per cent increase in passenger volume last year.

The increase in traffic also meant a $410,000 uptick in passenger fees for YQG, or Your Quick Gateway, as the facility is sometimes called after its international airport code. When all sources are factored in, Windsor Airport revenue climbed from $5.9 million in 2015 to $7.1 million in 2016, according to a recently approved audit.

“It’s great news,” Mayor Drew Dilkens, chair of the Windsor Airport board, said Friday. “The airport is in a good position.”

The city-owned Windsor Airport is on an extended winning streak. For years, the City of Windsor paid to operate the facility. But in 2015 for the first time, the airport handed the city a $1-million dividend, which it repeated in 2016.

The most recent revenue increase could mean the city will receive an even larger dividend, depending on what the board decides, though it could also help fund more airport enhancements.

“Our goal is to position the airport to grow and accommodate even more traffic in the future,” Dilkens said. “So we will continue to make improvements.”

Besides previous upgrades to passenger areas, the airport added a lounge in 2014 for about $275,000.

Dilkens said the positive airport trend reflects the city’s overall improving fortunes, including staging large competitions last year such as the FINA 25-metre world swimming championships and the CARHA hockey tournament.

“One of the reasons we saw an increase in passenger volume in 2016 was related to some big events we held here,” he said. “But the more significant factor was the increase in what they call gauge size. Air Canada is actually flying bigger aircraft to and from the City of Windsor because they have such demand to move folks from Windsor to Toronto.”

Air Canada used to fly only the Dash 8 100, with under 40 passengers, and Dash 8 300, with about 50 passengers, into Windsor. But over the last year the company has been moving more toward the Dash 8 400, or Q400, which can handle around 70 passengers.

Much of the increase in passenger volume comes from the United States. The lower Canadian dollar, and a drop in price for the Windsor-Toronto leg of longer Air Canada connecting flights, has drawn American clients. Sometimes the Windsor Airport parking lot can have roughly half U.S. plates.

“You’ll find that once you add the exchange rate, it’s significantly cheaper flying out of Windsor,” Dilkens said. “Our friends in the States have noticed that.”

The airport has been slowly increasing the airlines that fly into Windsor. A short-lived experiment starting in 2015 with National Airlines flying to Orlando didn’t last, when the company got out of the passenger business altogether. But Windsor Airport now offers Air Canada, Porter, WestJet, Air Transat and Sunwing flights.

Plus, Dilkens sees the possibility of more airlines and even an airport expansion in the future.

“We are one of the fastest growing small airports in Canada,” Dilkens said, noting that airport representatives continue to meet with airlines about flying to Windsor. “The board continues to talk about the right time to expand the terminal. We’re not quite there yet. It may be a few more years.

“But looking at the demand we’re seeing, we want to make sure the airport does not lose out on any business in the future.”


Passenger power

Passengers at Windsor Airport:

2015 — 274,218

2016 — 331,478

Increase — 57,260

Per cent increase — 21

Source: Windsor Airport