YLW’s senior airport operations manager Phillip Elchitz said it will take them three years to fully recover. (File)

YLW’s senior airport operations manager Phillip Elchitz said it will take them three years to fully recover. (File)

‘Gradual return to service’ as passengers adjust after COVID-19: Kelowna International Airport

Airport director Sam Samaddar said they’re projecting passenger numbers similar to 1996-1997

As B.C. eases into the third phase of its reopening plan, it means an increase of flight service at the Kelowna International Airport (YLW), but it doesn’t mean a full recovery quite yet.

YLW airport director Sam Samaddar said from April to May, the airport only had flights to Calgary and Vancouver but they’re projecting an increase of flights in July.

“We’ll see services to Whitehorse, Victoria, Vancouver, Prince George, Cranbrook, Calgary and Edmonton. So we’re certainly seeing more service developed within the region, in Western Canada, but what we’ll see is a gradual return to service as people get comfortable with flying,” he said.

“In our projections, we’ll probably hit about 650,000 to 750,000 passengers in 2020, which takes us to about 1996-1997 levels. It’s going to take us about three years to get to where we were which was about two million passengers in 2019.”

Samaddar added they’re looking at having as much of the check-in process as possible online to minimize person-to-person contact.

“If you don’t have any bags to check-in, then check-in online and get your boarding cards printed off so you can go directly to pre-board screening,” he said.

“But one of the biggest things is that we’ve done all of the safety measures in terms of the cleanliness of the facility and having stations for hand sanitizers and those kinds of things but the biggest protection will be the use of masks.”

He said airports, airlines and planes were not designed for physical distancing.

“If you look at our procedures like with pre-board screening or the onboarding process, you’re really in close proximity to each other. And even though we’re trying to maintain the separation as much as we can, really the protection is the mask and we ask passengers to wear while they’re at the airport and while they’re in the aircraft.”

YLW staff have previously said airport operations won’t be back to full capacity until 2023, with domestic flights experiencing a rebound first, followed by international travel.

“We’re expecting to see approximately 60 per cent of our domestic traffic to be back by the end of this year,” senior airport operations manager Phillip Elchitz said.

READ: ‘Full Recovery will take up to three years’: Kelowna International Airport

READ: ‘Dramatic change’: YLW traffic drops to less than 1,000 passengers a day


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
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