YYC Calgary International Airport and its partners are heading into a very busy travel season.
This is their first real holiday travel season since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
“We are going to forecast 1.3 million guests through the month of December,” said Chris Miles, the vice president of operations and infrastructure for the airport authority.
“From December 16 to January 3, it actually goes up to 50,000 guests a day.”
After more than two years of disrupted holiday travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Calgary-based WestJet said it is also ready to welcome more than one million flyers this Christmas and New Year.
The airline, which has had a turbulent few months due to data outages and weather cancellations, said it was working hard to get staff and flights ready to take off.
“We recently hired 60 new people in Calgary,” Colleen Tynan, WestJet’s vice president of airports, told Global News. “The schedule we have out there is exactly what we expect to fly at this time.”
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Fly now that public health restrictions have been lifted
Flying this year is very different than it was earlier in the pandemic, when there were more public health restrictions at YYC International.
The airport still has the hand sanitizing stations, but people no longer have to wear masks or show vaccination records.
Miles pointed out that doesn’t mean the airport doesn’t take COVID safety seriously.
“We have a very strict disinfection protocol,” he said. “We haven’t reduced any of the cleaning protocols here.”
What has been reduced — even removed — are some of the federal protocols, such as the requirement to use the ArriveCan app for people flying in from outside Canada.
Lisa White with the Canada Border Services Agency pointed out that while things went pretty smoothly with the app, it’s now even faster.
“It makes the travel experience a lot easier,” she said. “Less fumbling for travelers.”
But White said having the correct paperwork is still key.
“Travellers must have the necessary documents ready, such as their passports. It is also important to declare all goods you bring into Canada.”
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Make a list and check it twice
Airport officials suggest that fliers also pack their patience and pack properly.
Packing “smart” means not putting liquids over 100ml in your carry-on – even the liquid in your Christmas snow globe. Other prohibited items include knives, bath salts, firecrackers and any wrapped gifts.
“What really slows down screening is when some of these items show up in your carry-on bag,” Miles said. “Because, effectively, once it shows up in the bag, it requires an additional search.”
What you do want to do, officials say, is show up early for your flight. The recommendation is still two hours for domestic flights and three for international travel.
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New and returning to YYC
Those picking up passengers at YYC this year are getting a bit of a break. From December 15 to January 3, the airport offers 20 minutes of free parking at its short-term sites and 60 minutes of free waiting time in its mobile sites.
The airport offers a pre-booking service for security again this year. The YYC Express – the first in Canada – is an online reservation system that allows guests to reserve a time to go through security screening via a dedicated queue.
Also returning after a pandemic break – the Pre-board Pals program. The pups and their volunteer handlers help pilots cope with the stress of flying.
“It was difficult,” longtime volunteer Wendy Krenzel told Global News that he was not at the airport during the early period of the pandemic. “We went from 53 volunteers to just five of us when we first came back.”
“We were all excited to be invited back,” added fellow volunteer Victoria Winslow. “We see these dogs doing a very good job.”
“How many times do we hear, ‘You just made my day. It’s a really great place,’” says new volunteer Linda Walters.
The pup pals, along with the White Hat Volunteers and all staff, will be at YYC to welcome guests all season long.
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