Construction has officially reached completion on the Pier D international terminal building expansion of Vancouver International Airport (YVR), but it remains to be seen when it will be open for use.
The $300 million expansion was conceived at a time when YVR was seeing year-over-year record-breaking passenger volume growth, which necessitated a 20-year plan to expand the terminal building over multiple phases.
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Pier D is the first phase of the terminal building expansion plan, with construction commencing in 2018. It was originally scheduled for completion and opening in June 2020, but upon the onset of COVID-19 in March, construction activities on the nearly-finished wing were temporarily halted until August.
The Pier D expansion features eight new additional gates, including four traditional jet bridge gates and four remote stand bus gates.
In addition to the increased capacity, Pier D will provide international passengers with a wide range of retail, restaurants, and amenities.
YVR announced over 20 new food and beverage concepts for the airport in 2019, with many of the offerings slated for Pier D, including Pacific Farms Market.
Other amenities include quiet spaces for yoga and prayer, a private nursing room, a pet relief area, hot and cold water bottle refill stations, and an abundance of electrical outlets and charging stations.
The interior design evolves the airport’s motif of a West Coast-themed experience, with an eye-catching glassed-in island forest with access to the outdoors setting a new bar for the airport’s design. There is an opening in the roof that allows for the forest to be saturated with rainfall or even snowfall.
The new atrium space, where the island forest is located, also features a unique digital public art ribbon as one of the immersive features of the airport design.
“Due to COVID-19, plans to open the facility are on hold. The Pier D Expansion is a strong investment in our future at YVR and positions us well for when air traffic rebounds to pre-pandemic levels,” reads a bulletin.
The expansion was designed by Kasian Architecture, built by PCL Construction, and the digital experiences were designed by Creacom and Eos Lightmedia.
Pier D was constructed to provide a capacity expansion beyond the terminal building’s existing capacity of 25 million passengers annually. In 2020, due to the pandemic, YVR saw just 7.3 million passengers — down from the record volume of 26.4 million passengers in 2019. In December 2020, YVR saw just 294,000 passengers, a decrease of 86.4% compared to the 2.155 million passengers over the same month in 2019.
With air traffic greatly reduced, YVR is currently limiting its operations to certain wings of the older terminal building in an effort to reduce operating and maintenance costs.
It will likely take the global aviation industry several years after COVID-19 to rebound to its pre-pandemic activity.
Some major airports are still proceeding with plans to commence major terminal building expansions, including the USD$9-billion renovation and expansion of Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and just this week a contractor was selected for a USD$340 million expansion of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Others are more hesitant, notably the French government’s decision this week to cancel a new fourth terminal for Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport that would boost capacity by 40 million passengers annually.
Prior to COVID-19, after the completion of Pier D, YVR was targeting a major eastward expansion of the Transborder terminal wing, known as the Pier F/East Concourse.
YVR’s long-term, $9 billion expansion also included new infrastructure and utility projects that were well under construction on the footprint of the large surface parking lot just south of the Transborder terminal, but a decision was made to suspend construction indefinitely in September due to the pandemic’s impact on YVR’s finances.
This includes the cancellation of the half-built new central utilities building, geo-exchange facility for the terminal building’s thermal heating and cooling, and ground transportation centre with a parkade expansion.
YVR has spent a total of $525 million on these projects to date, but it can be restarted when capacity is required in the future. Several hundred million dollars more are required to complete this new infrastructure and utilities.