One of my favourite things to do at YVR during our busy summer season is to take a walk through the International Departures area around 1 p.m. This is right in the middle of what airport types refer to as the “international bank,” when passengers and their near-bursting bags bound for long-haul destinations like London, Seoul, Munich and Tokyo are streaming into the terminal, bringing with them an anticipatory, energetic buzz. They’re looking for the right check-in desk, scrambling for travel documents and deciding on whether to eat lunch before or after security screening. It’s fun to witness, and an important reminder of why we do what we do.
To make sure our passengers can get to and from their summer holiday destinations of choice, our plans consist largely of ramping up operations to manage this extra volume and get people on their way quickly and happily. Here’s a look at what YVR did on its summer vacation:
Just days shy of the summer solstice, the Airport Authority welcomed a new CEO. I’ve spent the past few months settling in and getting up to speed on every aspect of our operation - and loving every minute of it.
Meanwhile, airport employees were busy welcoming thousands more people. Between June and September, YVR hosted some 3.2 million passengers. Our busiest day? Sunday, August 18, when we welcomed 60,201 passengers, half arriving and half departing. In the lead-up to the third weekend of August, we saw travellers heading out for and returning from one last summer adventure, plus phalanxes of university students heading back to campus. All of this made for one busy travel weekend.
For the fourth consecutive year, our Commercial Services team pulled out all the stops to entertain these visitors (and those of us who work here) with the return of YVR Take-Off Fridays, the free summer festival that turns YVR into a festive family destination every Friday in July and August. Travellers and staycationers came out in droves to fold paper airplanes, visit the Observation Area and sing and dance to the approximately 4,000 tunes spun by three different DJs over the eight-week festival. And because I remember the days of airport travel with tired toddlers, I did my own part to boost the mood by challenging people to a round of ping pong. This epic “Battle of the Paddles” turned out in my favour, with only eight competitors out of 38 besting my paddle prowess. While Take-Off Fridays will definitely be back – for its fifth year, no less – I’m not so sure about a second round of ping pong. Stay tuned.
You may have noticed a couple of cranes standing tall on the airfield side of the Domestic Terminal’s A and B Piers. That’s because we’re busy renovating one of the oldest remaining areas of the original 1968 terminal building. Our mission is to reinvest our earnings back into improving the airport so we can continue to offer great connections, add to the economy and create jobs. And this project is a great example of that mandate in action. Look for some beautiful new facilities to open beginning next spring.
While I’m on the subject of construction, we also paved a road this summer. Russ Baker Way is actually owned and operated by YVR, and it was time for this important north-south thoroughfare to get a facelift. Thanks to all of you commuters for bearing with us during the repaving. And a special thank you to our closest neighbours, the residents of Burkeville, who patiently endured traffic pattern changes, detours and construction noise. I’m happy to report that the project will wrap up safely, on time and on budget later this week. Enjoy the repaved road.
You may have seen YVR Community Ambassadors out at a festival or two this summer. In fact, we visited more than a dozen community festivals all over the Lower Mainland to talk to people about who we are and what we do - and to dispense fun fact quizzes and lollipops. More on our summer festival tour here.
On the airline front, on July 19 we celebrated China Eastern’s decision to operate double daily flights between YVR and Shanghai, which brought our total number of weekly flights to Asia to close to 80. We also saw visits to B.C. from German tourists spike by 15.3 per cent in the first month of Lufthansa’s new Vancouver-Munich service, which began May 16. And travellers on either side of the Arctic Circle celebrated when, just last week, Icelandair announced its plans to operate twice-weekly seasonal service between Vancouver and Reykjavík beginning next May. (More on this new route, and how we pitch airlines to fly new routes or add service to and from YVR, will follow in an upcoming edition of Craig’s Corner.)
Other highlights? We took home top honours at the Airports Council International North America (ACI-NA) Environmental Achievement Awards for our Green Commuter Rebate program that encourages Airport Authority staff to use alternative transportation – including Canada Line, my mode of choice - to get to work. I’m also very pleased to say that the Airport Authority and the Public Service Alliance of Canada settled a new, four-year term that works for all of us and keeps YVR fully operational.
With Summer 2013 on final approach, it’s now time to apply our focus to building a robust yet flexible business plan for 2014: one that includes a comprehensive plan for winter weather operations, of course. I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, safe travels.