As the world begins to open up again, more people are travelling by air. And Canada’s second-busiest airport is getting a little busier.
On average, between 26,000 and 29,000 people are travelling through Vancouver International Airport each day, according to Robyn McVicker, vice-president of passenger journey. In comparison, a regular September or October day would see 65,000 to 70,000. Last summer and fall, there were only about 10,000 people daily.
“What’s been good that we have seen is as traffic started to ramp back up this summer, usually in September it begins to fall off again, (but) we’ve actually seen a pretty good hold of the traffic pattern, so people are continuing to travel in a safe manner,” says McVicker.
While travel continues to increase as Canada opens its borders, some logistical challenges remain due to the pandemic. These include different requirements at the place of origin and destination. For instance, a new federal vaccination mandate was brought into play Oct. 30 for those departing from Canadian airports.
“Anybody traveling out of, coming through, or working at (the airport) has to be fully vaccinated with a Health Canada-approved vaccine,” says McVicker.
Exemptions are available for a small number of travellers, with a transition period allowing travellers who are not vaccinated to instead present proof of a molecular test result through Nov. 29. A molecular test uses a nasopharyngeal or nose swab or a saliva sample. These travellers must either show a negative result within 72 hours of their departure time, or a positive result that is 14 to 180 days old.
Even those who are fully vaccinated may still be selected for mandatory randomized arrival testing.
Those who are arriving at Canadian airports must show both their proof of vaccination and their pre-entry test result. Other countries may have different testing requirements for travellers upon arrival.
McVicker says some testing facilities are available near or inside the airport. People travelling to countries that accept a rapid antigen test for arrival (including the U.S.) can get one in the east concourse area of the airport. These tests have a faster turn-around time, but are less sensitive and can be less accurate.
People looking for a molecular test can go to LifeLabs near the airport, on Russ Baker Way, which will return results within 12 hours.
The airport is also focusing on additional protocols, including sanitization stations and mandatory masking.
And with the holiday season upcoming, McVicker says December and January traffic is likely to be high.
“COVID has really changed how we forecast and how the airlines forecast (passenger numbers),” she says. “Probably numbers will go down a bit in the month of November to 20,000, 25,000 a day, but I would absolutely anticipate that it goes up well for December and January. We expect it to be more than we have today (in December).”
Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel