Vancouver International Airport preparing for a resurgence in air travel

Jul 5 2021, 5:36 pm

With the provincial government gradually advancing its phased BC restart plan, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and its business partners are making preparations for a resurgence in air travel.

As of BC’s transition into Step 3 on July 1, residents in this province can now travel across Canada for recreational and leisure purposes, although they are advised to check the guidelines of other provinces before traveling to their destination.

Visitors, friends, and family of passengers are now also allowed to enter the terminal building.

Additionally, as of today, the federal government has implemented relaxations for fully vaccinated international travellers — individuals who already have the right to enter Canada, and have received a full suite of Canada-approved vaccines at least 14 days before entering the country. They will be exempt from government-approved hotel quarantine and testing on the eighth day.

Passenger numbers are now increasing after the lows experienced earlier in the year from the spike in coronavirus cases, the implementation of new travel restrictions, and a slow start to vaccination.

YVR now anticipates it could see as many as 75,000 passengers weekly in July 2021 with travel measures easing, following the recorded volumes of 48,270 passengers in the first week of June and 59,192 passengers in the third week.

Each week, airlines serving the airport are rolling out more flights and reporting a higher percentage of seats filled with more people on planes.

But this would still only represent a small fraction of the airport’s pre-pandemic volumes. During a typical July, it would usually see between 60,000 and 70,000 passengers.

YVR saw a record 26.4 million passengers in 2019, but this growth was wiped up last year, with daily passenger traffic decreasing by more than 90%. In 2020, the airport saw just 7.2 million passengers, with most of the volumes attributed to the first 10 weeks of the year, before the sudden onset of the pandemic in the middle of March.

The pandemic-time recovery high was recorded in August 2020 when 414,000 passengers passed through YVR, but this was largely attributed to a surge in outbound trips of domestic and international students returning home. Ahead of the new school semester in September 2021, the airport could see the reversal of last summer’s flows, with a surge of domestic and international students flying into YVR, as BC post-secondary institutions are planning a full restart of in-class instruction at campuses.

vancouver international airport yvr june 2021

Vancouver International Airport, June 2021. (Vancouver Airport Authority)

This summer, Air Canada is planning to operate about 88 direct flights daily from YVR, serving about 40 destinations, mostly in BC. This is down considerably from 23,000 seats on 180 daily flights serving 70 direct destinations this time two years ago, but up from the pandemic low last year of just a few key routes.

Air Canada states its restart of US and international routes continues to depend on the lifting of border restrictions.

At YVR, the flag carrier has opened a dedicated family check-in counter a the airport, reopened the Maple Leaf Lounge with strict safety protocols, and brought back 200 furloughed employees.

WestJet has also indicated it will increase the number of routes, offering 18 non-stop routes from YVR this July.

“We’re seeing incremental increases every week. The numbers are starting to climb, but very measured,” said Robyn McVicker, the vice-president of passenger journey for Vancouver Airport Authority, during last week’s press conference.

“We’re so pleased to hear that many of our partners have recently started to welcome back their staff and employees at the airport, as we all ramp up our operations and supporting our community.”

As most people have likely not traveled since the pandemic began, the airport is informing prospective flyers on what has changed at the terminal and how to prepare.

Passengers are advised to ensure their passport is still valid and that they have the right travel documents. They should also know the requirements of where they are traveling to — for both domestic and international destinations — as well as what they will need when they return to YVR.

As the security screening process now includes health screening, the need for patience has been emphasized. The screening process now includes several extra steps, such as temperature checks. For departing passengers in need of COVID-19 testing, there are now two locations inside the terminal.

vancouver international airport yvr june 2021

COVID-19 testing booths for all international arrivals passengers at Vancouver International Airport’s international arrivals area. (Vancouver Airport Authority)

Anyone arriving in Canada from the US or another international destination must also complete health declaration forms using the ArriveCan app. Pre-registering for testing can streamline the steps for re-entry.

Mandatory international arrivals testing is being conducted in booths within the level two international arrivals area, which was previously an area with rows of seating for the general public greeting visitors.

With passenger volumes expected to rise moving forward, most food, concession, and retail partners at the terminal have reopened, and several new concepts will open over the coming months.

YVR has also improved some of its amenities, including specific amenities for anyone traveling with a pet: four new animal relief areas have been added.

In early June, in preparation for the lifting of travel restrictions, YVR reopened its domestic terminal for passengers to check in and drop off their baggage. Over much of the pandemic, domestic operations were consolidated to the international terminal.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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