The Abbotsford International Airport’s pile of cash continues to grow after the city-owned facility posted a $3.8 million profit in 2018.
It’s not bad for an airport bought by the city for just $10 – that’s not a typo – two decades ago.
Year-end financial statements show the airport’s operating profit jumped by 60 per cent last year. The money has been put into the airport’s capital reserves which, as it stand, are “more than sufficient to cover our future capital plans without the need of incurring any debt,” according to the report by Myra Webb, the airport’s finance manager.
In recent years, the airport has posted operating profits of a little more than $2 million. But revenue increased dramatically last year, coming in $800,000 above what was projected, thanks largely to more passengers.
Passengers leave a Swoop Airlines flight at the Abbotsford airport. The airport expects to post record profits next year thanks to higher passenger numbers. Dustin Godfrey/Abbotsford News
YXX expects another jump in passenger counts in 2019, and officials have predicted that it will top the one million mark for the first time. That is expected to increase the facility’s profits for years to come, according to budget documents.
The city’s budget predicts the airport should make around $4.5 million for each of the next five years.
All that money goes to the airport’s reserves, which currently stand at $18.9 million. The money is used to pay for capital projects, like the recently completed terminal expansion.
But while the airport is set for the short- and medium-term, Mayor Henry Braun said those reserves will be needed for future major projects.
“We have some significant investments to make in the future,” he said
“We are just looking out over the horizon to the next 20 years, so while $18 million in reserves sounds like a lot of money and it is, relatively speaking, that’s not a lot of money for where we’re going and where this airport is going to go over the next 25 years.”
Those costs could include moving the control tower, an idea that has been floated by transportation authorities in the past, he said. And the next terminal upgrade could cost tens of millions of dollars, he said. The city has long said that all such capital projects must be funded by the airport itself.
For now, though, the airport has plenty of money.
YXX plans to spend around $5 million on a new bag room over the next three years. When that is done, the terminal will be big enough to accommodate as many as 2.5 million passengers each year before it needs a further expansion, airport general manager Parm Sidhu told council last month.
Another $10 million will be spent over the next five years to replace or upgrade various buildings, roads, taxiways, and pieces of equipment.
But even with that spending, the airport should be able to add millions of dollars more to its reserve funds. Interest on the money in the two funds brought in more than $400,000 last year.
Abbotsford Airport was bought from the federal government for $10 in 1997, on the condition that it remain an airport and that the city itself not contribute any money beyond that small initial purchase price.
Five years earlier, the airport had lost more than $200,000, and Braun hailed Matsqui and Abbotsford mayors Dave Kendall and George Ferguson for seeing the potential in the airport.
“Those two gentlemen and the board are what made this happen,” he said.