John Wayne Airport is counting on new flights to Canada to boost international service as work on a $543 million expansion nears completion.
Canadian discount airline WestJet began offering daily, nonstop flights between John Wayne and Vancouver earlier this month. It plans to add service to Calgary next month.
They are the only international flights at John Wayne.
Airport and local officials hope the new 282,000-square-foot Terminal C will help draw more international flights and boost passenger traffic after its scheduled opening in November.
“When we finish with Terminal C, we will have U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which means we can accommodate flights from other destinations like Mexico and Central America,” said airport spokeswoman Jenny Wedge.
John Wayne is able to accommodate WestJet’s flights because regulations allow for customs inspections for travel to and from Canada to be done there.
Airport officials said geographic proximity would make service to Mexico and Central America an attractive market once federal customs officials set up shop at the new terminal. Hispanic immigrants here would likely help make service to those countries attractive.
Plans for service south of the border have yet to take any specific shape, Wedge said.
“We probably will know more closer to November because we are working with all the airlines here to talk about what opportunities they could have to expand their service to those types of destinations,” Wedge said.
Terminal C is the last of three major projects in the airport’s expansion.
Work on a $31 million central utility plant kicked off construction in 2008 and was completed in December.
The $48.5 million Parking Structure C also was completed in December and has room for about 2,000 vehicles.
The expansion is being financed by a combination of revenue from JWA operations, federal grants, bonds and a passenger fee of $4.50 that started in 2006 and will run through 2022, or until it collects $321.4 million.
Other changes also are taking place inside the airport.
In January, Bethesda, Md.-based HMSHost Corp. won a 10-year lease as the airport’s primary food and beverage operator, beating out challenger Buffalo, N.Y.-based Delaware North Cos. for the contract.
HMSHost plans to spend $15.6 million to remodel restaurant spaces in Terminal A and B and build new ones in Terminal C.
Among the new restaurants are Irvine-based burger chain Ruby’s Diner Inc., Santa Ana-based Jerry’s Wood-Fired Dogs, and Tustin-based Zov’s Bistro Inc.