During mid-afternoon at Victoria’s International Airport concourse passengers mill through the building.

But these days, there are fewer passengers and fewer flights leaving and arriving.  President and CEO Geoff Dickson said there are three per cent fewer passengers domestically and two per cent fewer international travellers.

“We’ve seen our numbers down five per cent year to date, and I’d say it’s a host of factors, the first and foremost we lost a couple of services,” Dickson said.

After a number of record-breaking years of increasing numbers of passengers, 2019 will likely be an exception at YYJ. U.S. airlines Delta and United no longer operate flights on and off the island. And the grounding earlier this year of the Boeing 737 Max hit Victoria as well as many other airports as airlines scrambled to find flights for their passengers, according to University of Victoria marketing professor Brock Smith.

“I think it’s a minor bump. Again, if we look at the underneath that trend, it may be that visitorship from China may be down because of the tensions between Canada and the US. And uncertainty with the China and US trade war. So it could be certain markets are down a lot and others are growing.  And we might expect those that are down to bounce back when things are calmer,” Brock said.

The airport generates more than $85 million annually in taxes, including more than $5 million to local governments.  Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith said he’s confident in the airport’s long-term business plan.

“While it’s a bit of an impact for the airport, it’s going to be a smaller impact on the town of Sidney itself. I’ve been impressed with the airport authority how they’ve, how business has gone in recent years. And I think the long-term trend is for it to continue to grow,” McNeil-Smith said.

The airport is currently in the middle of a $19 million dollar expansion. Dickson said the decrease in passenger loads won’t directly impact construction.

“If demand is slowing and it’s something than more than the Air Max and the economy is slowing, we’ll obviously have to slow down and re-assess. But it doesn’t necessarily change what you do. It might change the timing,” Dickson said.

With global travel on the rise, the expectation is that growth will take off again.

Mary Griffin