Victoria’s Big Little Airport

    YYJ is one of North America’s best-loved airports, and plans to spend $600 million to prove it.

    Victoria's Little Big Airport (Douglas Apr/May 2023)
    Blue-shaded areas represents YYJ's ambitious expansion plans.

    Most travellers have a love/hate relationship with air travel. Weather delays, overbooking and riding shotgun with the loo are occupational hazards. But YYJ is different, or so says CNN Travel, which calls it one of the 10 most-loved airports in the world. 

    Victoria International Airport (airport code: YYJ) is the 11th busiest airport in Canada with nearly two million passengers per year. YYJ is also the 2012, 2014 and 2020 winner of Best Regional Airport in North America by Airports Council International.

    Even a regional airport needs constant maintenance and upgrades, everything from paving and pumping stations to runway approach lighting. But the new $600-million, 20-year plan seeks to make YYJ a truly international airport.

    This news comes after 93 years of service to the Island. In 1930, a private airport on the southern tip of the Island started YYJ’s humble beginnings. Before that, air travel was only possible by float plane. YYJ has come a long way. Scheduled passenger service was launched in 1942; in 1959 it was renamed Victoria International Airport, despite only offering a handful of flights to Seattle.

    One of the plan’s most ambitious projects is to extend the main runway, dubbed 09/27, possibly allowing international flights to Europe, and handling what could be three million to four million flights per year by 2042. Like most airports, YYJ took a huge hit during COVID, but has bounced back to pre-pandemic levels of almost two million passengers per year. 

    There are land-based improvements in store, too, including upgraded terminal facilities, parking expansion and the popular recreational path. An Ontario-based real estate developer has proposed constructing and operating a TownePlace Suites by Marriott hotel at the airport. The proposed hotel features 129 rooms, a mixture of traditional hotel rooms and extended-stay suites along with amenities such as a swimming pool, fitness centre and 1,500 square feet of meeting space. The project is being reviewed by the Victoria Airport Authority.

    And as a nod to environmental concerns in the neighbouring Saanich farming community, there is even a new pollinator garden featuring native species.