In a move to further accommodate the increasing number of passengers leaving from the region, a new departure lounge opened at Waterloo Airport on Tuesday.
The lounge is part of the $44-million terminal expansion project at the airport, which is expected to see between 500,000 and 700,000 pass through by the end of the year.
“It’s been an incredible feat when you think that a year ago this departure lounge wasn’t here and now it’s fully operational – brand spanking new and ready to have more passengers use YKF both to leave and to come back to the region,” said regional Chair Karen Redman.
Kitchener-Conestoga MP Tim Louis said it is a great day for the region.
It’s going to add stability to our airport; it’s enlarging the airport, making more people fly in and out. There’ll be about half a million people that are going to leave in 2022 alone. And about two-thirds of those people are from our region,” Louis said.
Chris Wood, airport general manager, highlighted the increasing job numbers at the airport.
“About six months ago we were at 20 staff, and now we’re at 47. We’ve been able to attract all kinds of people on our team, and our newly built terminal operations team. We are training and gearing up to provide a world-class customer experience, as well, in this facility. We’ve gone to a 24/7 operation and we are ready to go,” Wood said.
Wood acknowledged that the expansion is far from over.
“We got the rest of the building to finish. In one year from now everything will be finished. We will have a new baggage system where you dispose of your bag and you don’t see it again until you arrive at your destination, which is a big improvement over what we have today,” he added.
While the airport’s main tenant, Flair Airlines, has only recently made it past an investigation by the Canadian Transportation Agency over whether or not it is controlled by Canadians, the expansion was done to accommodate their needs, Wood said.
“It means that we’re able to provide the facility that Flair needs in order to do what they want to do here. So they want to grow and expand and offer more – more destinations, more frequency.… Until now, we didn’t have the facility to be able to do that, especially simultaneously,”
The federal government provided $8.1 million for the expansion, money that Louis says is a sensible investment.
“We’re working together in partnership with the region and the municipality because they know the best way to spend that money, to invest and where to put it. So by working closely with them, and making the investments they need, these returns on investments become an increase in the economy: more jobs, people are able to fly from here and people actually coming to this region for tourism,” Louis said.
A growing market means expansion plans at the area’s dominant airport, Pearson in Toronto, aren’t an issue for YKF, he added.
“[Pearson] is running out of room to expand. And so what they’re going to be doing is offloading some of those smaller planes and smaller flights leaving from other regions. That puts us in a better position than other airports around regional airports to be a prime reason that people drive the other way on the 401 to go to the airport,” he said.