For Vijay Bathija President & CEO of John C. Munro Airport 2017 is shaping up to be a great year and he expects better things to come. Halfway through 2017, passenger levels were almost double the totals for the same period last year, thanks to the arrival of the low cost carrier Flair and expanded service by WestJet. The Airport has seen significant passenger traffic growth of 127% with 269,901 passengers compared to 118,890 passengers the same period last year. That number is expected to further grow to close to 500,000 passengers by year end. Looking ahead Vijay says the relaxation of foreign ownership rules means other low-cost carriers are likely to start up in Canada and will be looking at Hamilton as their GTA hub because of its lower cost structure compared to Pearson. Media reports suggest some of those low cost start-ups could be flying by next year. Air Canada operates two flights per day each way from Hamilton to Montreal, but as Vijay points out from Montreal one can reach any number of European and foreign destinations. So for the passenger they can book a through flight from Hamilton to London or Paris and only have to hand off their luggage in Hamilton. Similarly with direct WestJet Service to Vancouver from Hamilton it is possible to book through to Asia-Pacific destinations from Hamilton. Asked if there might be trans-Atlantic service from Hamilton, Mr. Bathija would only say, “stay tuned.” Vijay says fully half of Hamilton Airport’s passengers come from outside the region. Fully 20 percent come from east of Toronto meaning they drive past Pearson to get here. Americans are starting to use Hamilton as well. Western New York passengers heading to Europe are now using the Hamilton-Montreal – Europe option instead of navigating the maze at JFK Airport.
Cargo continues to be a major source of revenue for Hamilton Airport which continues to be Canada’s largest overnight express cargo airport. Through the first half of 2017, Hamilton International’s cargo volume has increased 19%. “We have enquiries for 5 additional cargo hangars,” says Vijay, “We are trying to find land to accommodate all this growth.”
The long term prospects for the Hamilton Airport seem good with Pearson approaching its capacity and the area around the Toronto airport severely congested. Hamilton’s future from a passenger perspective appears to be that of a low cost point-to-point hub and as a continued leader in cargo, especially these days, with the continued explosive growth of e-commerce which usually entails shipping by air.