01/25/2012 09:25 EST | Updated 03/26/2012 05:12 EDT

Vancouver airport improvement fees going up

A 10-year, $1.8-billion upgrade announced Wednesday for Vancouver International Airport will see passengers travelling to destinations outside of B.C. facing a $5 increase in the airport improvement fee to $20.

However, the Vancouver Airport Authority, the not-for-profit group that runs the airport, says the fee will still be among the lowest in Canada, with most other major airports collecting $25 per passenger.

Meanwhile, passengers travelling within B.C. and to the Yukon will continue to pay just a $5 fee, the authority said in a release.

The increase takes effect in May.

The upgrade is part of an effort to position the airport as Canada's gateway to Asia.

The authority says more airports are fighting for business, and that's putting pressure on Vancouver to improve service.

"You have to compete for that business and so being cost competitive overall is critical,” Airport Authority CEO Larry Berg said Wednesday.

Among projects in the improvement plan are more than 700 metres of secure corridors and moving walkways to reduce connection times for passengers, new high-speed baggage systems, and runway safety enhancements.

More airlines sought

Berg said the airport also wants to bring more airlines from different countries to Vancouver.

"You need to liberalize air policy with a number of countries. There are airlines that would like to fly to Vancouver that are prevented from doing so today,” said Berg.

Berg said Emirates Airlines became frustrated with negotiations and went to Seattle’s airport instead.

"YVR employs 23,600 people, is home to 400 businesses and generates $1.9 billion in GDP for Canada," Berg said.

"It's no surprise that we have to continue investing in our airport to ensure we remain an economic engine for our community. Every penny of [Airport Improvement Fee] collected goes toward building a better airport for British Columbia."

The last increase in the airport improvement fee was in 2004. Although at one time the fee was collected directly from passengers, it now is added to ticket prices at the time of purchase.