Kelowna Airport’s expansion plans on hold due to pandemic | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna Airport’s expansion plans on hold due to pandemic

Kelowna International Airport was almost deserted during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / City of Kelowna

In the fall of 2018, Kelowna International Airport was rushing towards a record two million passengers for the year and proudly launched a major expansion program called Soaring Beyond 2.5 Million Passengers.

It called for more than $200 million in airport expansion projects over 10 years, both inside and outside the terminal. But much of that has ground to a halt as a report going to the Airport Advisory Committee Tuesday, July 18, shows a number of projects have been deferred as passenger counts have dropped off the map due to COVID-19.

READ MORE: Flying out of Kelowna projected to cost more next year

It will likely take at least three years for Kelowna Airport to get back to 2019 passenger levels.
It will likely take at least three years for Kelowna Airport to get back to 2019 passenger levels.
Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna

During the first half of the year, passenger volumes dropped 53 per cent to 481,135 by the end of June. Most of those flew prior to the mid-March COVID-19 lockdown. For the last three months, passenger counts have been down 90 to 96 per cent per month.

In April, only 5,706 people flew in and out of Kelowna, compared to almost 175,000 in each of January and February.

Hours of operation were cut from 24 hours a day to 14, customs was closed, seven of 10 airplane parking areas were closed, the often packed long-term parking lot was closed and staff was cut by 34 per cent

On hold are projects such as a $7.7 million pavement rehabilitation project, building two more gates and a self-serve baggage drop.

Design is continuing on a planned $76.5 million expansion to the terminal building but the budget for this year has been cut to $2.9 million from $19.2 million.

And even as travel starts to open up as COVID-19 restrictions ease, the report shows it will take until the winter of 2022-23 to get close to last year’s passenger levels and at least to the following winter to reach that level.

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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