16 Jan YLW
But the director of Kelowna International Airport was still surprised by the final numbers.
Last year, 1,893,470 passengers arrived and departed at the airport, breaking the 2016 record of 1.7 million by 9.3 per cent.
The 179,153 passengers who flew in and out of the airport in August made that month the busiest ever, breaking the previous monthly records set in March.
Christmas traffic helped make the last month of 2017 become the busiest December ever with 177,131 passengers, surpassing the 166,537 of December 2016.
“These numbers certainly exceed our projections,” said Samaddar.
“It’s great news. The increase in travellers translates directly to boost the reginal economy with an increase in tourism and support for local businesses.”
Kelowna airport has been on an upward trajectory for three decades.
Back in the 1980s, annual passenger counts were in the 350,000-range as the airport
offered little more than flights to Vancouver and Calgary and some seasonal charters to Toronto and the second-rate gambling destination of Reno.
A turning point for the airport came in 1996 when WestJet starting flying in and out of Kelowna with discount fares.
The increased competition combined with the city’s booming economy made Kelowna airport a regional facility, attracting passengers from throughout the Southern Interior.
The Okanagan’s growing reputation as a ski destination also attracted fliers.
The momentum attracted more airlines to offer more non-stops to more destinations.
Currently, the airport sees about 66 flights a day depart and arrive.
WestJet, Air Canada, Alaska, Flair, Pacific Coastal, Central Mountain Air and Air North have regularly scheduled year-round service to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria, Toronto, Seattle, Prince George, Cranbrook and Whitehorse.
There’s also seasonal scheduled and charter flights to Varadero, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Phoenix and Winnipeg with Sunwing, Air Transat and WestJet.