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Region of Waterloo airport to double in size, with focus on low-cost flights

Construction is underway at the Region of Waterloo International Airport (YKF), with plans to double the airport’s size within the next six months — from 30,000 square feet to just over 60,000

The expansion is hoped to help the airport become a hub for ultra-low-cost carriers such as Flair Airlines, which began flying out of the region in May.

Chris Wood, the airport’s general manager, said the ultra-low-cost model has been a “game changer.”

“People are willing to drive to here from Toronto or London or Owen Sound to get a cheaper flight,” said Wood.

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Wood said about 35 per cent of people flying out of YKF are from outside the region and believes cheaper fares are the main motivation.

“It’s not a surprise, we know it would work because [the low-cost model] works in every other country in the world — Canada was a late adopter,” he said.

The low-cost carrier model has been a “game changer” at the region’s airport, according to general manager Chris Wood. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)
Up to a million passengers per year are expected to travel through the airport by 2023, up from 70,000 a year in 2019, according to the region’s projections.

The total cost of the airport expansion is about $44 million. The federal government has contributed about $4 million and the region is covering the rest.

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Asked how the airport expansion fits with the region’s goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80 per cent by 2050, officials said more people flying out of the region will translate to fewer cars on the 401 to Pearson International Airport.

“The other thing is that … Flair has got brand new airplanes, which are operating a much more efficient use of of energy,” said Rod Regier, the region’s commissioner of planning, development and legislative services.

Terminal expansion work is expected to wrap up next spring, the region said.

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