There are a few changes coming to the Kelowna International Airport (YLW) as air travel continues to adapt and reopen as the COVID-19 pandemic slows down.
In a statement, YLW airport director Sam Samaddar said much like many Okanagan businesses involved in tourism, the airport was hit hard and they expect to be one of the last sectors to bounce back.
“In April and May, our passenger numbers dropped by 96 per cent, and while we expect it will take several years for YLW and other airports across Canada to recover, we’re getting ready now so we can welcome travellers back when t he time comes,” he said.
Air service at the airport remains open for domestic travel, with more airlines resuming service in June and July, including Central Mountain Air, Flair Airlines, and Pacific Coastal Airlines with flights from Kelowna to Victoria, Prince George, Calgary and Edmonton.
“As provinces slowly start to reopen, we hope to see additional destinations and increased frequency on these routes as airlines adjust their networks and schedules.”
Samaddar also said there will now be health checks at the airport to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
All passengers are now required to have a non-medical mask or face covering as they go through the airport, as well as when they are in-flight. Travellers will now be subject to a health check before boarding; passengers with COVID-19 symptoms will not be allowed to travel. Health checks will be done by airline employees either at check-in counters or at the boarding gates.
As part of provincial requirements, travellers returning to B.C. from international destinations must self-isolate for 14 days.
Air Canada and WestJet currently have flights out of Kelowna, while Central Mountain Air, Flair Airlines, and Pacific Coastal Airlines will resume service in June and July.
He added there are also additional changes at the airport for passenger safety, which includes:
- enhanced cleaning and sanitization of high-touch areas, which include check-in kiosks, luggage carts, railings, seating areas and washrooms
- plexiglass barriers at all airline check-in counters and boarding gates
- more hand sanitizer stations throughout the terminal
- new physical distancing floor decals as a reminder for passengers
- reconfigured seating in the departures lounge to promote physical distancing
- one-way traffic flow throughout the terminal
Samaddar said they will be working closely with Transport Canada, Canada Border Services Agency, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority and the Public Health Agency of Canada to develop a restart plan.
“We recognize that a balanced and coordinated approach is necessary to protect the public as we battle COVID-19… we can’t wait to welcome you back to YLW when it’s time to explore the world again.”
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