The Buffalo Niagara International Airport celebrated its five-millionth passenger back in 2006, roughly 14 years ahead of schedule. Much of that growth has come from Canadians seeking flights at as little as half the price of a trip from Toronto. Last year, 42 per cent of the passengers who parked in the airport’s long-term parking lots had Canadian licence plates, up from eight per cent in 1997.
The influx has spurred the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which runs the airport, to plan a $400-million expansion. The airport expects to hit eight million passengers by 2030, many from Canada at rates that would make Buffalo Canada’s sixth-largest airport. All that Canadian traffic has also turned the streets around Buffalo’s airport into one of the city’s most bustling neighbourhoods, with hotels, bars and 24-hour restaurants. To keep business booming, the transportation authority has set up a website, Canflyus.com, which it advertises on billboards on Toronto highways. “Certainly we have our eye on the Canadian market,” says airport spokesman Douglas Hartmayer. “It’s very high on our radar and it’s certainly not something we take for granted.”
For Toronto travellers, the airport’s planned expansion lacks only one authentic Canuck detail: a Tim Hortons.