Starting in October, daily flights to Vancouver will be available from John Wayne Airport via Air Canada, the last airline to start regular service in Orange County.
In the past nine months, three other new carriers have launched flights with JWA: Allegiant Air, Spirit and Sun Country. Those three and Air Canada got slots when county officials approved annual passenger allowances at the end of 2020; Orange County supervisors on Tuesday approved a four-year lease that will allow the Canadian airline to begin service this fall.
JWA is only limited by a legal regulation that limits the number of passengers that can pass each year. Because of that cap, along with the airport’s small size and limited number of boarding gates, county officials are limiting the number of commercial carriers using the terminal and the number of passenger slots each has.
Air Canada was allowed in because it was high on the waiting list when the capacity opened last year, airport spokeswoman AnnaSophia Servin said in an email.
Spirit Airlines began service in November, and Allegiant and Sun Country launched flights earlier this year. Flights from Vancouver will be among a few to international destinations outside of JWA. There are two destinations in Mexico and two in Canada, and WestJet is expected to start serving Calgary before the end of the year.
Meanwhile, traffic at John Wayne Airport has started to return to normal levels, after plunging precipitously last year due to the pandemic. Until June (the last full month for which statistics are available), passenger volume reached almost 80% of the total for the same month in 2019, but the cumulative total for 2021 – 2.6 million – was still well below the 5.2 million passengers passing through JWA in mid-2019.
Servin said that by the second week of August, the airport handled 90% of the passengers it saw during the same period two years ago, but JWA officials expect a drop over the next month or two as summer travel declines, and it’s not certain the increase in COVID-19 cases could influence people’s travel decisions.