Kelowna airport

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the expansive parking lots at Kelowna's airport were well-used. Now, so many stalls are empty that YLW wants to lease them to students and staff at UBC Okanagan then shuttle them to the campus four kilometres away.

Stalls that are empty in the Kelowna airport's under-utilized parking lot could be leased to university students and faculty.

City councillors will be asked Monday to endorse a plan by YLW managers to lease hundreds of stalls to UBC Okanagan.

"Due to the significant, negative impact of COVID-19, the airport's parking lot is not being fully utilized. On the other hand, UBCO needs additional parking for its students and staff," reads part of a report to council.

The plan is to rent the space to the university for a per-semester charge of $360, starting Sept. 20. After parking at the airport, students and faculty would then hop on a shuttle for the four kilometre tip to the campus.

It's projected offering parking stalls to the university would earn the airport anywhere between $50,000, if 138 stalls were leased out, and $108,000, if 300 stalls were leased, through the end of 2021.

There were 2,600 short- and long-term parking stalls at YLW in 2019, when the city approved plans to add another 600-stalls on a gravel lot.

In July of this year, airport manager Sam Samaddar said YLW was about the sixth-busiest airport in Canada, despite the pandemic-related slowdown.

At the time, there were still about 40% fewer flights in and out of YLW each day compared to pre-pandemic levels. "But we are certainly recovering a lot faster than many airports across the country," Samaddar said.

More than two million passengers passed through YLW in 2019, but the number plunged to 730,000 in 2020.