Jane L. Levere reports on the surge of Canadian travelers using U.S. border-area airports, and those airports growing appetite for these Northern travelers.
The cause? A strong Canadian dollar, and steep Canadian tickets.
In any case, the travel decisions of Canadians are making direct impacts on the future development plans of U.S. airports, highlighting another wrinkle of the richly layered Canadian-U.S. economic relationship.
At Buffalo Niagara International Airport, for example, Canadians now make up 47 percent of all passengers, up from 26 percent in 2006.
In all, as many as five million Canadians drive across the border annually to fly from American airports, largely to destinations in the United States, according to a report last year by the Conference Board of Canada.
The trend has “picked up steam in the last five years,” said Vijay Gill, principal research associate in transportation and infrastructure for the board.
Bellingham International Airport, about 40 miles from Vancouver, has had “nothing but a steady climb in commercial service” in the last 10 years, said Daniel Zenk, director of aviation for the Port of Bellingham.
Airlines operating out of Bellingham include Allegiant, Alaska, Frontier and Horizon. Mr. Zenk, who estimated that 65 percent of the airport’s traffic was Canadian, said its parking and terminal facilities were recently expanded; a 156-room Holiday Inn was slated to open there next year.
Barney Parrella, executive vice president of InterVISTAS Consulting Group, who has helped Buffalo Niagara International Airport plan its development, predicted the increase in Canadian traffic would “continue for the foreseeable future.” But a lot depends on the value of the Canadian dollar against the American dollar. “If that shifts, it clearly will have some impact,” he said.