Vancouver International Airport is raising its airport improvement fee from $20 to $25 — a move its leaders say is meant to fund future growth.

The 25 per cent markup goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020, and will continue to be applied to all passengers travelling outside of B.C.

Vancouver Airport Authority CEO Craig Richmond made the announcement at the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade Thursday, arguing it’s necessary for the airport’s plans.

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“I realize that’s probably not going to be too popular,” he said. “But we looked very carefully at our debt load, at our asset capital plans, at our interest coverage ratio, at future possibilities for passenger growth … and we realized it’s time.

“Remember, we’re not thinking short-term, we’re thinking long-term.”

Passengers travelling within B.C. and to the Yukon will continue to receive a discounted $5 fee.

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The improvement fee was described as temporary when it was introduced in 1993, but the airport says it now counts on it for 31 per cent of its revenue.

The airport does not receive federal funding to operate, it says, relying instead on the fee and both aeronautical and non-aeronautical revenue.

Since the fee’s introduction, the airport says it has collected more than $2.2 billion, which has been used to help fund $3.7 billion worth of new runways and terminal expansions.

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The airport says it has seen 74 months of consecutive year-over-year growth, requiring a new expansion program that’s expected to last 20 years.

“If we took away the fee, YVR wouldn’t be able to keep up,” Richmond said.

“Our infrastructure would wear down, the passenger experience would decline, people would choose other airports for connections and we would not be able to deliver on our public mandate to provide economic and social benefits to our communities.”

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Canada’s seven other major airports also charge improvement fees, with only Ottawa’s $23 fee lower than Vancouver’s.

The highest fees are at airports in Edmonton and Calgary, which both charge $30 per passenger.

Smaller airports such as those in Victoria and Regina levy fees between $15 and $20.

—With files from the Canadian Press

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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