Swoop Airlines is looking to station two planes in Abbotsford by the end of the year, president Steven Greenway said Thursday at a ribbon cutting for the airport’s newly expanded terminal.
“We hope to make an announcement sometime mid-year with regard to that,” Greenway said, as MPs, MLAs, the mayor and airport officials marked the opening of the $5-million expansion of the Abbotsford International Airport.
Abbotsford would be the third airport in Canada to be a base point for Swoop aircraft, after Hamilton and Edmonton, Greenway said.
He added that it’s likely Abbotsford’s airport, which hit a record passenger count of over 800,000 last year, will see over one million passengers this year.
“Parm thinks it’s December,” Greenway said, referring to airport manager Parm Sidhu. “I probably think it’s about October, November. I’ve got the planes, so I know.”
In five to 10 years, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun says he anticipates the airport will hit the 2.5 million mark. That’s a five-fold increase over the 500,000 passengers Braun said the airport had hovered at for years until recently.
“I think 2019 will obviously be an even bigger year, and that really has necessitated this,” Greenway said, gesturing around him to the newly expanded airport terminal.
The expansion – which Braun noted was done without increasing airport fees – was mostly completed in December.
A big part of the recent expansion to last year’s record traffic was the introduction of Swoop, a low-cost airliner, which has been adding more flights in and out of Abbotsford recently.
This year, the airliner began twice-weekly flights from YXX to Mexico’s Puerto Vallarta on Jan. 12 and to Mazatlán International Airport as of this past Sunday.
And just this week, the airliner announced summer flights to Winnipeg and London, Ont. starting in May.
“Hopefully we’ve got a few more in our back pocket in the next couple of months,” Greenway said.
Currently, for the winter months, Greenway said Swoop has five or six flights per day in and out of Abbotsford, which is expected to increase to seven or eight per day.
He said Swoop is keen on Abbotsford because of the economics involved.
“It’s small, which is what we like, but also it’s part of a larger population base,” he said, adding that the lack of an airliner fee makes a “massive” difference.
“Obviously, we like a facility that’s cheap, because then we can keep fares low.”
But he also noted the simplicity of Abbotsford’s airport – without jet bridges to dock at, they can save time getting passengers on and off airplanes.
At the event, presenters noted the low fares for Swoop facilities, which is considered a draw for people in Vancouver, south of the border and elsewhere to fly to places like Edmonton or Ontario.
Presenting to the small audience in the new terminal, Braun and Abbotsford South MLA Darryl Plecas exchanged playful jabs about the proposed highway widening.
“I’m told by Nov. 1 of this year, we will have four lanes linking our international airport to Highway 1. I wasn’t going to mention Highway 1, but Speaker Plecas did, so I can’t resist. It seems odd to me that we have four lanes coming into the airport, but the freeway is still four lanes,” Braun said to laughter.
“So I’m hoping that between now and Nov. 1 we’ll hear something about that widening.”