With 2017 passenger traffic climbing to 599,146 passengers versus 333,368 in 2016—Hamilton International Airport can claim to be Canada’s fastest growing airport. And 2018 should be a better year yet with the launch of Westjet’s Ultra low cost carrier—Swoop which will compete with Flair and possibly Canada Jetlines which also announced plans to fly from Hamilton in 2018. In addition Air Canada offers daily connections to Montreal; but from Montreal passengers can reach hundreds of international and US destinations without having to handle their baggage after they check it in Hamilton. All this in addition to Westjet’s scheduled service, and sun destination charters offered by Air Transat and Sunwing. Dina Carlucci, Director, Marketing & Communications at the airport sees a bright future for Hamilton as home to Ultra Low Cost Carriers(ULCC) even though they have not succeeded in Canada in the past. “The new low cost carriers are aiming for a target market that has not done a lot of air travel—millennials and younger couples with children. Instead of cannibalizing existing travel demand, effectively the pie gets bigger because the fares are so attractive.”
Low cost carriers typically operate out of secondary airports like Hamilton because of the low landing fees, but also says Carlucci, because of the lack of congestion. “Low cost carriers need to be able to turn flights around quickly and not be spending hours and burning fuel sitting on the tarmac at busy airports.” In the case of Hamilton International it is better for the passenger too, because of the short distance from the parking lot, to the lounge and to the plane, and once on the plane, the flight typically is first for takeoff. In addition, Hamilton International has been reaping a windfall of sorts from Toronto’s air congestion. In 2017 Porter Airlines was forced to make 116 diversions of flights to Hamilton because of the curfew at Billy Bishop Airport, resulting in additional landing fee revenue for Hamilton.
Less known to the general public is Hamilton International’s successful cargo operation. Overnight the airport becomes a beehive of activity as Cargojet aircraft crisscross Canada delivering goods. The explosion of e-commerce with companies like Amazon means ever increasing cargo volumes. Cargo planes from Hamilton reach US cargo hubs like Louisville overnight, as well as European and South American destinations. Hamilton experienced a 13 percent increase in cargo handled last year over 2016. UPS, Purolator and DHL also make Hamilton their home. “Right now our cargo tenants are busting at the seams,” said Carlucci, There is demand for facility expansion.”
Also not generally known is the number of jobs created by the airport, its tenants and their suppliers. The most recent study shows 2,800 jobs have been generated by Hamilton International, making it the second largest private sector job creator in the region.