It has been a quiet holiday season at the Kelowna International Airport (YLW), amid a quiet year overall.
Airport director Sam Samaddar said that usually they would see upwards of 100,000 travellers go through YLW in the latter part of December, as people come home to the Okanagan, or leave the area for the holidays.
Now, they’ve only seen about 30,000 to 35,000 throughout the month.
Looking back on the year, Samaddar said passenger traffic through YLW was down about 60 per cent.
“We handled over two million passengers in 2019 and we’re looking at handling about 730,000 passengers (in 2020),” he said.
“If we look back in May, as we saw the virus spread in March, and really the aviation industry shut down, we were down to four flights a day with traffic reductions down by 95 per cent… and we’re one of the better performing airports in the country.”
He added that it has been a very difficult year not just for YLW, but for the aviation and tourism industries as well.
On Tuesday, Dec. 22, the first COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines arrived in Interior Health. The first doses were administered in Kelowna.
As for the news of the vaccine, Samaddar said they’re excited for it but they’re not expecting it to result in quick changes that would benefit the industry.
“If you look at the time that it’s going to take to get people vaccinated in significant numbers, and then look at the consumer confidence piece so people can get back in the air, that’s going to take some time to build.”
“So we’re not (anticipating) next year to be much better than what we’ve gone through this year,” he said.