Waterloo Region International Airport
​to double its size by this spring

Regional officials break ground at the International Airport.
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By Carrie Debrone
Kitchener Citizen
November 4, 2021

​​​​ The Region of Waterloo International Airport will soon be a lot larger.

​​Spending $44-million, the region plans to double the size of the local airport within six months, taking it from its current 30,000 square feet to 60,000-square feet. Construction will include an addition to the passenger holding area of the terminal to accommodate up to 800 travellers, a new arrivals lounge, a pre-fabricated 12,000 square foot baggage handling building and system adjacent to the terminal, new plane parking pads (four to accommodate 737 aircraft), and expanding airport car parking from 800 to about 2,000 spaces.​​

​​The region is also working to provide a connection to the airport via Grand River Transit.

​​With crews already working on the construction, regional officials announced the expansion during a press conference on October 14. Officials say the expansion is needed because studies show there will be 750,000 passengers using the airport by the end of 2022, increasing to more than one million passengers by 2023.

​​“To go from 80,000 (current passengers) to one million is crazy, but we knew it was coming,” said airport General Manager, Chris Wood. He explained that the airport’s new business partnership with the budget airline Flair has been very successful, and it’s what spurred the region on to go ahead with the expansion. Over the years, many smaller airlines have come and gone from YKF (the airport’s code), but none have been low-cost airlines.

​​“Flair is going to grow with us and we are going to grow with them. We all used to go to Buffalo to travel to the US because it was cheap. I think it’s the same model,” Wood said. “People who don’t usually fly, are now booking flights,” he said. “We’re seeing the demand. When they offer flights, they’re full.”

​​Wood added that 65 per cent of passengers at the local airport are people driving from Owen Sound, London,Toronto and beyond to take advantage of the cheaper airfares offered by Flair. They have also been surprised to see how popular Flair’s Kitchener to Halifax route has become.

​​Rod Regier, the region’s Commissioner of Planning, Development and Legislative Services, said the region’s Airport Master Plan approved in 2017 included a plan for servicing the business community through low-cost smaller airlines.

​​ “The plan allowed us to be ready and poised when an airline showed it was ready to proceed. Once Flair came, then the region moved forward to make sure we have a terminal that can serve their needs,” he said.

​​The region surveyed 1,400 passengers to find out what they would like to see at the airport.

​​“We want it to be a comfortable experience for everyone and make sure that it’s a reflection of our culture here. It will be a place for first and last impressions,” Regier said, adding that the new terminal will showcase an exhibit from the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum.

​​“The airport is really an important economic driver for our region and provides hundreds of jobs.” “The growth of the airport is critical to the growth of our economy,” said Greg Durocher, President and CEO or the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce. Currently, YKF provides about 22 full-time jobs. That will jump to about 50 full-time jobs by next year if passenger counts continue to increase.

​​Stating that the airport supports both local business and travellers, and connects Waterloo region to the rest of Canada and beyond, Regional chair Karen Redman said that “best results come from good planning.”

​​“We want it to be a world class airport. Council looked at where the investment would make the biggest difference. It is a strategic investment. We couldn’t wait around during COVID for the right time and we moved forward.” Redman added that the expansion will help attract businesses to the region, will keep cars off the 401, is convenient for local travellers, and noted that Flair is striving to become as green an airline as possible and has some of the most efficient planes on the market.

​​Flair started providing flights from the regional airport in May, and now flies to Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Halifax.

​​Flair is currently waiting for approval for routes to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale in coming months, and wants to potentially expand to Mexico and the Caribbean in the future. Three other airlines currently fly out of YKF – WestJet, Sunwing and Pivot Airlines.

​​The airport is home to 25 businesses that employ more than 300 people and contribute more than $90-million annually to Waterloo Region’s economy. It will cost more to operate the expanded airport, however officials do not expect regional taxes to rise because of the expansion, noting that expenses will remain in line with what was projected in the master plan.