Kelowna Airport won't break passenger count record set in 2018 | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna Airport won't break passenger count record set in 2018

January 07, 2020 - 12:40 PM

The grounding of the Boeing 737 Max is cited as a key reason Kelowna International Airport isn’t likely to break its 2018 passenger record, according to Airport director Sam Samaddar.

In 2018, 2,080,372 people flew in and out of the airport, a record set after passenger counts grew by 38 per cent over five years.

“We lost some seat capacity just simply because the 737 Max was taken out of service at the end of March,” Samaddar told “The frequency we had to Toronto and the seating capacity that we had got reduced dramatically because those jets were used elsewhere.”

The same kind of passenger decrease is likely to happen at all secondary airports, he said.

Samaddar expects the final tally, which won’t be available for a couple of weeks, will show a drop of one to 1.5 per cent. That would still leave the total at more than two million.

Passenger growth over the past few years triggered plans for a major facility improvement and expansion over the next few years, funded in part by an increase in the City's Airport Improvement Fee by $5 to $25 in March.

The operation of the airport over Christmas – which is the busiest time of year – hasn’t been without its technical problems but it didn’t disrupt operations.

One problem was with one of two outgoing passenger luggage conveyor belts.

“It’s not unusual for a piece of baggage carrier to break down,” Samaddar said. “It is designed for redundancy.”

The one remaining belt was sufficient to carry all the luggage without delays.

The new outgoing conveyor belt system was installed in 2017 at a cost of $38 million.

One of the airport’s five bridges, which allow passengers to enter and exit aircraft without going outside, has also broken down. That happened about a week ago and it will take another three weeks to get the part to repair it shipped up from Texas.

While most repairs to bridges can be done by crews on site, there are times when parts are not readily available, Samaddar said.

Since only half of the 10 gates have bridges, losing one does not delay flights since ground loading is quite common.

A couple of other bridges will be out of commission at times in the coming year as they are rebuilt to extend their lifespans. Two more bridges will be added over the next few years.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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