New flights and new funding have officials optimistic business will start to return to the Region of Waterloo International Airport as the province reopens.
Flair Airlines last week announced it is adding more flights out of the airport, identified by its call letters YFK. Flair Airlines began operating in 2017 as Canada’s only independent ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC)operating with a low-cost business model and offering cheaper airfare prices. The company began flying out of Breslau in the spring.
“Flair is very excited to be working with the Region of Waterloo International Airport and to bring the freedom of affordable travel to local residents,” said Stephen Jones, the company’s president and CEO of last week’s new flights. “As the world starts to come out of the pandemic this summer, Flair and YKF will be there with low fares to give more Canadians the opportunity to travel, visit friends and family, and to see what Canada and the U.S. has to offer.”
Last week also saw new federal funding allocated to the airport.
“In recognition of the impact COVID-19 has had on Canada’s airports an additional $186 million over two years is being made available under the ACAP, increasing the annual program by almost 250 per cent,” said Waterloo MP Bardish Chagger at the July 8 funding announcement.
The Airports Capital Assistance Program (ACAP) started in 1995. Since then, Ottawa has invested more than $1.1 billion in 199 airports across the country.
“Smaller communities depend on their airports to facilitate travel for medical or business appointments, vacation and tourism while resource operations in isolated areas count on local airports to be there to move skilled workers. Safe and efficient airports support their communities in many ways; this is more important than ever during these unprecedented and challenging times, living through the COVID-19 pandemic and to do this, there facilities and equipment must meet certain safety standards. That is where the airports capital assistance program or ACAP comes in,” said Chagger.
The Canadian government will be investing just over $3.9 million to improve safety and efficiency at YFK. This is just one of the 86 projects at 63 airports that were selected for funding in 2021.
The investments in Canada’s smaller airports is to improve the safety and efficiency airport transportation options for travellers, to create more tourism for local economies and to help grow the region.
“Communities such as ours in the Waterloo Region are working to position ourselves to rebuild and repair for the post-pandemic economy and world,” noted Chagger.
Through Transport Canada’s ACAP, the feds will provide $3,931,274 to the region’s airport for rehabilitation of taxiways and four aircraft stands.
“The Region of Waterloo is one of the fastest growing communities in the country and we are forecast to remain a growth leader in the coming years, in fact in the coming decades. Alongside this growth is the Region of Waterloo International Airport. Our current and projected demand for our airport is now exceeding our capacity and the ACAP will help to support specific programs to help our airport reach new heights,” added regional Chair Karen Redman.
The terminal expansion is set to double the size of the current airport, with local officials touting additional jobs, support for businesses and local tourism.
“It also supports the growth of our knowledge in tech sectors and makes the Region of Waterloo a more desirable place for companies to put down roots,” said Redman
During the COVID-19 pandemic smaller airports, such as YF, have been vital to distributing supplies and delivering vaccines to Canadians, officials say.
“We’re not waiting around; we’re taking that cheque and we’re cashing it, and we start work on Monday (July 12). So, we are putting shovels in the ground starting Monday on this exciting work as well as our terminal expansion work – and that’s a $35-million expansion to our terminal building. Our demand is now outpacing our capacity,” said airport general manager Chris Wood.
“We’re upgrading everything. We’re doubling the size of our terminal building, we’re adding baggage capacity, we are adding investments in restaurants and retail for our passengers, additional baggage screening capacity – we’re upgrading our Canada Customs facility as well,” noted Wood of plans for the airport
“The Region of Waterloo International Airport is an important hub for residents in Waterloo Region, connecting us to other airports across the country and the world. This investment will help ensure continued safe and reliable airport operations so our airport can keep serving our community,” said Kitchener-Conestoga MP Tim Louis.