The Abbotsford International Airshow made major logistical changes after a shaky experience for some attendees in 2022, and officials said those slight adjustments led to a much more enjoyable experience for all in 2023.
Ticketing moved to a date-specific format for the event held Aug. 11 to 13, and fewer tickets were made available. Airshow spokesperson Jadene Mah said this led to brisk ticket sales and a smoother entrance and exit for fans.
“We were thrilled with the guest experience on arrival and departure on each of the show days,” she said. “And from the feedback we have been receiving in person and on social media, it seems that it certainly worked.”
The 2022 show saw the airshow issue a public apology through its social media channels due to long traffic delays and tickets being unavailable for purchase by fans at the gate on the day of the event. Those issues seemed to have been solved.
“It was kind of light in my complaint department this year,” Mah said.
The City of Abbotsford also sent out traffic notices well in advance of this year’s show, and the general public seemed better prepared for potential traffic chaos than in 2022.
Mah said airshow officials need to do a complete debrief before deciding to continue with the changes adopted for the 2023 show, but it’s possible they will continue. She noted that access to airfields in general is limited and the new ticketing structure is a reflection of that.
She also said exact attendance numbers haven’t been finalized, but she estimates a crowd of 15,000 to 20,000 per day. Mah said the delay in getting a legit number is due to so many carloads with different numbers of people.
Those numbers would be similar to the 60,000 total attendance for the airshow in 2019. The 2018 show had a reported attendance of about 80,000. (Attendance figures for the 2022 show were not available.)
Mah said the Women in Aviation theme was a success and that it was inspiring to see the female presence in the air. Stunt pilot Melissa Burns was a highlight of the weekend, and women pilots were also featured in the F-35, Growler and Snowbirds acts.
“If you went anywhere down our static display ramp, there were technicians, trades, pilots, public affairs, and so many more were incredibly supported and represented with women,” she said.
The 2024 AIA is set for Aug. 9 to 11 and next year’s show will have a big focus on the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Mah thanked the community for the support for this year’s show and said there are so many people involved to make the show possible – “the volunteers, vendors, contractors, suppliers and those who choose to buy a ticket.”
“Having a sold-out crowd is why we do this, and it’s a real vote of confidence for a long-standing event like this one,” she said.