Having travelled to over 40 countries and extensively within Canada and the United States, I’ve lost count of the number of airports I’ve visited over the years. At the same time I remember many of them for different reasons.
For example, at Palm Springs International Airport, I feel totally relaxed because of the vibe and the fact that many passenger services are outdoors in the warm, scented air. Conversely, the three airports that service the New York City region are not what one would expect from one of the greatest cities in the world.
Obviously the airport I frequent the most is YVR which still tops virtually all of the major airports I’ve been to in my travels (admittedly I’m a tad biased). It’s beautifully designed and offers good amenities, not to mention is the perfect spot for people watching, which as you know is a pastime I enjoy while waiting for flights. In recent months, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of arriving and departing passengers in the domestic, USA and international terminals. YVR seems to be bustling again with nary a flight that isn’t completely full.
YVR sources tell me that it’s going to be a busy summer with Canada and USA airline capacity at two percent above 2019 numbers, which ultimately bodes well for the entire province. However, the news isn’t all positive. BC is currently trailing the national average and other peer provinces for airline seat capacity. In fact, excluding the United States, international airline capacity remains 26 percent behind 2019 largely due to the slow return of service from China. Only Mexico and the South Pacific are above pre-pandemic numbers.
As I’ve mentioned before, for an industry that relies on the movement of people, connecting BC communities and increasing air service capacity are critical to rebuilding our visitor economy. Hence the reason YVR recently put forward a recommendation to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport to partner with BC airports and establish a merit-based Air Service Attraction Fund to secure more direct flights to British Columbia.
The proposed fund would help increase overnight visitor expenditures, support jobs and connect more people with unique experiences in all regions. Moreover, it would give BC a strategic advantage over other Canadian provinces, as well as a competitive edge over some of our American competitors.
While some destination management organizations and local airports are contributing to route development initiatives, additional investment is needed, especially to build higher yield international traffic that, as referenced earlier, hasn’t yet fully materialized.
TIABC offered its support for the fund and spoke with the province about the opportunity on several occasions. On a related note, we also sent a letter on behalf of Air Canada in their recent pitch to the federal government to add frequencies in the bilateral agreement between Canada and the UAE to allow direct flights between Vancouver and Dubai.
Unfortunately, the BC Air Service Attraction Fund isn’t going to fly just yet. While acknowledging the need, the province has not set aside any budget for now. It doesn’t mean the idea is grounded, but more work on the part of all partners is necessary to see it take off. Stay tuned.
While waiting to catch a recent flight out of YVR, I observed a number of passengers dressed up in animal and superhero costumes, sport uniforms, and even pajamas. I thought now I’ve seen everything and then it dawned on me that these were Canada Rugby Sevens fans who were in town for the tournament at BC Place. It’s one event where you stand out if you’re not dressed in a costume of some sort.
Although mildly amused by their outfits, I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like for these folks to clear security. Alas, just another day of people watching at my favourite major airport.