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

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

Kelowna International Airport’s domestic and international flights have drastically dropped since the pandemic began

Operations at the Kelowna International Airport (YLW) won’t be back up to full capacity until 2023.

That’s according to senior airport operations manager Phillip Elchitz.

He said they expect domestic flights to experience 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,” he said.

“But we do believe the full recovery will take up to three years. So, the expectation is that by the end of 2022, that passenger traffic levels in Kelowna will be at the same levels as they were in 2019, which is two million passengers.”

Elchitz added they expect flights to hubs such as Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton will come back first, followed by the return of flights from Kelowna to Toronto.

He said they’re also expecting trans-border flights to the United States to come back by the beginning of July, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau extended the border closure until June 20.

Before the pandemic, YLW saw about 3,500 to 4,000 passengers a day. Now, the airport sees between 200 and 300 passengers a day.

“It’s a significant reduction in daily passengers as well as the number of flights. A typical day would see 70 flights a day. Now, we have four flights a day,” he said.

“The other piece is that we would normally have nine airlines flying to 15 non-stop destinations and right now, we have two airlines flying to two destinations. Air Canada and WestJet continue to fly to Vancouver and Calgary.”

Elchitz said YLW is fortunate to be able to maintain most of the amenities running despite the low passenger traffic, including car rental, the gift shop, as well as Tim Hortons and Subway.

“We expect the hours of operation to expand with the expanded flight schedule. Then our full-service restaurant, we expect that to open later on in the summer when we start to see more passenger traffic.”

READ: Millennials hardest hit by COVID-19 in Interior Health

READ: Canadians’ frustration mounts over lack of refunds for flights cancelled during pandemic


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

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