One of two airlines to fly out of the Breslau airport regularly, WestJet has changed up the schedule on its lone daily flight to Calgary, from a 6 a.m. departure time to a more palatable 4:30 p.m. departure.
The move is sure to aid the small airport, which has struggled to compete against the larger and more entrenched Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Currently, with three carriers flying out of the Waterloo Region International Airport – WestJet, FlyGTA, and the seasonal Sunwing Airlines – the airport has yet to be able to stand on its own two feet without taxpayer support. For 2018, that loss amounted to $6 million – or 1.5 per cent of the region’s property tax levy.
Despite the costs, proponents of the airport point out its added value to the region as a global tech and business hub – one estimate from the Wilfrid Laurier University placed the economic contribution to the region for the year of 2015 at $90 million – as well as the potential for growth the airport could enjoy.
“At this point, yes, the airport is supported by the tax base here,” notes Matthew Chandy, the region’s manager of economic development.
“That’s another thing that will change with air service growth, and hence why we’re putting so much effort into that. Not only to provide the service to the community, but again it’s another revenue source where the revenue will increase significantly if we can grow the passengers to our 20-year target of 2.5 million passengers.”
It’s an aggressive goal. In 2015, passengers to and from the airport reached a record high of 153,000, but then dropped by 25,000 in 2016 due to a loss of scheduled flights to Chicago operated by American Airlines.
However, at the same time the population and economy of Ontario and, in particular, the southern part of the province, are expected to grow significantly over the next 20 years as well.
By 2025, passengers in southern Ontario are projected to reach 50 million, according to the region; and by 2043, those figures will almost double at 90 million passengers, pushing airports like Pearson beyond their capacities.
Waterloo Region anticipates that the smaller airports will have to shoulder some of that burden, and the Breslau airport is well situated to do that. Crucially, however, any future expansions to the facility – that is, millions of dollars worth of capital projects – will be only be considered if the airport actually attracts more passengers to it first.
With about 128,000 travellers passing through the region’s airport, the number of passengers will have to double to 250,00 before a second round of expansions will be considered by regional council. The passenger count will have to double again to 500,000 for the third round of developments, until it eventually reaches 2.5 million.
“The way we view the airport, we understand that it is a key economic driver for the community, being that it is closely attached and linked to the future growth of this community. As we live in a more globalized economy, our companies here that are growing and need to connect with clients and other businesses and supply chains throughout the world, they need that air access,” said Chandy.