Kelowna International Airport officials say the annual crush of passengers moving through its terminal over Christmas has, so far, been smooth sailing.
Airport spokeswoman Janelle Hynes said a combination of the airport’s peak holiday travel plan and excellent weather conditions resulted in smooth operations at the airport over Christmas as an estimated 50,000 people passed through the airport between Dec. 15 and 25. The total is twice the normal amount for a regular 10-day period during the year.
Hynes said another 50,000 passengers are expected to pass through the terminal between now and Jan. 7.
“It’s difficult for any facility to prepare for that kind of an increase over a two-week period,” said Hynes, but, she added, with a plan such as the one the airport uses to handle peak travel periods, life is a whole lot easier.
Exact numbers will not be known until early in January, but this December could break the monthly record of 126,513 passengers who used the airport in December last year.
Despite the increased numbers, line-up have been kept to a minimum and even at security, normally a choke point for most airports, people have been moved through quickly.
But it was not just inside the terminal where it was busy last week.
Out in the airport’s parking lots, space was at a premium.
Hynes said parking peaked overnight on Dec. 24 with more than 2,000 vehicles filling the long-tern lot and another 127 having to use the overflow lot. There were another 135 vehicles in the short-term parking area. The total of just over 2,200 vehicles was a three per cent increase over last year’s Christmas peak.
And even Mother Nature co-operated this year. Mild weather here helped and even more harsh winter weather back East had little disruptive effect on flights in and out of Kelowna, said Hynes.
Weather warnings issued in Ontario and Quebec, which could have caused a ripple effect of delays across the country, only delayed a few flights and none were cancelled. On Thursday, flights arriving at, and departing from, the airport were running either on schedule or or were delayed just five to 10 minutes.
Still, anyone heading to the airport was advised to check YLW’s webpage at ylw.kelowna.ca for flight updates before leaving home.
Meanwhile, work has started on the first phase of the latest expansion of the airport, the international arrivals area.
With more flights to and from the U.S. and Mexico coming on line all the time—the latest being direct flights eight months of the year to Las Vegas—Hynes said a bigger international arrivals area is needed.
As part of the airport’s drive to increase the number of passengers it handles per year to 1.6 million, several other areas of the operation are also to be expanded over the next few years.
In addition to domestic flights to larger centres like Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto, as well as smaller Canadian cities, Kelowna’s airport also now has direct flights to Seattle and seasonal flights to Las Vegas, Phoenix, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and Los Cabos.
Hynes said other routes are constantly being looked at and a Kelowna-San Francisco route is currently being considered.
Kelowna’s airport is currently the 10 busiest in Canada and handles just over 1.2 million passengers per year.