Kelowna airport officials have unveiled their latest plans for expansion at YLW – a multi-year $55.6 million plan that will see improvements and additions to the baggage handling system, plane parking area, departure lounge, check-in area and taxiway.
The work, to be carried out over the next five years, is part of a $92 million airport improvement plan started in 2008.
“This is our most ambitious plan yet,” said YLW director Sam Samaddar at a media briefing Tuesday.
The latest round of construction at the airport will start with the building of a large, state-of-the art outbound baggage hall that will handle more than twice the number of bags the airport currently deals with and could be ramped up to handle three times more as the airport continues to grow.
Phillip Elchitz, airport development manager at YLW, said the new baggage facility will have the most advanced baggage screening equipment available today.
With construction slated to start in June, the new baggage hall is expected to be complete by 2018.
As part of that project, the existing baggage area will be rejuvenated as part of a plan to create more office space for airlines behind the existing check-in area in the airport terminal.
Samaddar said the terminal’s check-in area will also be renovated and enlarged. Check-in is located in the oldest part of the terminal building, which dates back to 1967.
The total cost of the three-phase, three-year baggage, terminal and check-in area improvement work will be $40 million.
In addition, the airport will also improve the departures area, the plane and runway de-icing plant and three areas on the air-side portion of the facility, one taxiway and two aircraft parking aprons. The total cost for that will be $15.4 million.
With future growth in mind, the air-side operations will be built to a standard that could accommodate some of the largest aircraft currently in use, said Samaddar.
But while YLW will be able to handle aircraft such as the 250-seat Boeing 787 Dreamliner, he said it is still many years away from welcoming such large aircraft. That could come when or if YLW gets direct air service to Europe.
Currently, the largest aircraft using YLW carry about 180 passengers.
YLW has experienced unprecedented growth in the last 10 years and is currently riding a 25-month run of record-breaking numbers. It hit its 2015 target of serving 1.6 million passengers in 2014, one year ahead of schedule.
Samaddar said YLW is expanding as growth dictates and as a self-financing, municipally owned entity, it will pay for the improvements by raising revenue through its $15 per outbound passenger airport improvement fee, not by using city funds.
In addition to the terminal and air-side improvements, another planned addition at the airport, to be started this year, will be a project dubbed the airport plaza.
Costing a total of $5 million and built in two phases, the airport plaza will be paid for by Royal Star Enterprises, the company that operates parking and valet parking at the airport.
It will include an Esso gas station, two restaurants and retail space on a one-acre plot of land just off the Highway 97 entrance.