The president and chief executive officer of the Victoria Airport Authority welcomes the resumption of international service but also tried to temper expectations.
The federal government announced Nov. 2 that the Victoria International Airport, among eight airports across Canada, will reopen for international air travel effective Nov. 30.
Geoff Dickson said this announcement means the resumption of international service, “something we have been long anticipating.”
International service at the airport stopped after the federal government limited overseas flights to and from four airports (Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver) on March 18, 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know that we have to follow the health and safety guidelines that are out there, and we are pleased that the federal government has made a determination that conditions are such that we can welcome this kind of service back,” Dickson said.
“It means service starting again with Alaska Airlines (flying) to Seattle and connecting throughout the United States. There will be the return of some SunSpot flights for Mexico and we may even see the introduction of new Las Vegas service with Swoop Airlines to name just a few.”
This said, some time may pass before international air travel from and to the airport gets off the ground.
“It’s very difficult for the airlines,” Dickson said. “They will need to make decisions around flight crews and aircraft. So hopefully, this will create some new opportunities for them.”
While the conditions for international air travel will come into effect on Nov. 30, it is not clear yet when international flights will resume given regulatory and logistical issues.
Dickson expects Alaska Airlines will commence service to Victoria close to that Nov. 30 date.
Dickson noted the Nov. 19 date was a placeholder date, as they had been prepping for service. “You can’t just have it announced and then load a schedule,” he said.
When asked about flights to Mexico and Las Vegas, Dickson said some uncertainty remains but predicted, as of right now, that those flights would resume in January.
International travel accounted for about 15 per cent of the airport’s business before the pandemic, said Dickson. “It’s a significant portion.”
He noted the airport had seen significant growth since 2018, when United and Delta airlines suspended operations to Seattle and San Francisco. “What we are hoping, is that the reopening of the border will start to create new opportunities.”
He’s hopeful that will mean more opportunity for non-stop service into markets such as Arizona or southern California and to see non-stop service reinstated to Hawaii. “We certainly like to see the San Francisco service come back and we are going to be exploring potentially other hub markets in the United States, markets like Denver.”
Overall, Dickson said traffic is heading in the right direction.
“We are encouraged by the numbers we saw in August, September and October, where we operated at approximately 60 per cent of pre-COVID levels,” he said. “It’s always challenging trying to forecast, but we believe we are going to see that (reach pre-COVID levels) close to the end of 2023 and into 2024.”
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