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Vancouver airport saw 31% increase in passengers in 2023

CEO Tamara Vrooman says Uber, Lyft shows increase in service to and from YVR.
The Vancouver International Airport welcomed 24.9 million passengers in 2023.

The Vancouver International Airport welcomed 24.9 million passengers last year — a 31 per cent increase over 2022 and the third highest total in the airport’s history, according to an update that YVR’s CEO recently shared at city hall.

“It was a fantastic year,” Tamara Vrooman told Vancouver council May 28.

Although the number of international flights remained lower than in 2019 — predominantly related to ongoing global geopolitical dynamics — it was the domestic and U.S. traffic that drove the increase in passengers.

Domestic passengers were up 21 per cent compared to 2022 and increased one per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Transborder flights — between YVR and U.S. destinations — saw a 38.5 per cent increase versus 2022.

In 2023, the airport experienced its busiest summer since 2019, with 7.2 million passengers from July to September — a 21.7 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2022, and on par with 2019.

Total number of passengers that travelled through the airport in the pre-pandemic year of 2019 was 26.3 million. That number dropped to 7.3 million in 2020 and seven million in 2021, before increasing to 19 million to end 2022.

The airport’s growth in 2023 is also connected to the addition of 13 new routes, including direct service to Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Nashville, Austin and Boston. There is also now direct service provided by Air Canada to Dubai.

Vancouver International Airport president and CEO, Tamara Vrooman. Photo Mike Howell

Ride share up 50%

At the same time, nearly 320,000 tonnes of cargo passed through the airport — a number that is expected to increase as work continues on a $150-million cargo facility expansion.

According to YVR’s annual report, the airport’s air cargo volumes continue to grow while other U.S. West Coast airport cargo volumes shrink.

“Our cargo business is an increasingly important part of the work we do at YVR,” Vrooman said.

“Everything from fresh produce, our very high valued sustainable seafood, plus electronic goods, life science ingredients, things that go into PPE and our growth in the biotech sector — all of those goods travel best and most efficiently by air.”

How people are getting to and from the airport has changed from previous years, with Vrooman saying YVR has seen a 50 per cent increase over an 18-month period in the use of rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft.

“Initially, we thought that that was coming, perhaps, at the expense of taxis,” she said. “But it's not. Taxis have also been holding — they haven’t been growing as much — but they've been holding their market share.”

Vrooman said more than 20 per cent of passengers continue to use transit.

“People are using more efficient means, so we don't have a single car dropping off a single person and not picking up another,” she said.

Living wage

Vrooman said about 26 per cent of the 26,000 employees that work at the airport and on Sea Island are Vancouver residents. She said 2023 was a year of “unprecedented people growth” at the airport.

“We effectively doubled our labour force to improve resiliency and better serve our passengers right across our corporate operation,” she said, noting the airport is a certified living wage employer.

The certification means all Vancouver Airport Authority employees are paid at or above the designated living wage for Metro Vancouver, which is $24.08.

“Being a living wage employer is important to us,” she said.

“The people that do, frankly, some of the lowest paid jobs at our airport are essential to the functioning of the airport. And the fact that we're able to support them with dignity and compensation in an inflationary environment like the one that we see in our region is not only good for our community, it's good for our business and our operations, as well.”

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