Calgary International Airport braces for busy summer travel season

The Calgary Airport Authority (CAA) and its partners are preparing for the busiest summer travel season since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the CAA, more than 13 million passengers are expected to travel through the YYC Calgary International Airport in 2022 – up from 6.3 million in 2021.

"The travel experience is different than it was in 2020 and we are doing everything we can to help guests prepare to take some of the turbulence out of the journey," Chris Miles, vice president of operations and infrastructure with the Calgary Airport Authority, said in a news release.

YYC began seeing a steady increase in travellers in April and May 2022. Last month, 1.3 million passengers went through the terminal, which is about 42,000 guests per day.

In July and August, about 50,000 are expected per day at YYC, according to the Calgary Airport Authority.

But Miles told reporters Thursday that YYC hasn’t seen the same long waits at customs or security as other airports. 

"We’ve got flights from all over North America and Europe that connect through this airport, which means we are not immune to the effects of disruption at other airports. Other delays can pop up but we collectively try and navigate a better experience for our guests as they come through Calgary," he said.

"We are an interconnected system and we rely on each other to maintain an efficient, seamless guest experience."

PILOT PROGRAM

To help meet these demands and make travelling easier, YYC now offers a pilot program where guests can book a time to go through security screening, kids zones and quiet spaces where families can decompress and a new website page where people can access all the information they need in one place.

People can also turn to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), which regularly shares carry-on packing advice, information for families, seniors and people with special needs, along with wait times for security screening. CATSA has also opened an additional screening lane at Pre-Board Screening D and E at YYC that will help get passengers through the security process faster.

"The more prepared travellers are, the easier it is for us to move them through security as quickly as possible," CATSA spokesperson Sandra Alvarez said in a release.

Summer travel season is here! Be ready to fly with these quick tips. #HappyCanadaDay ✈️������ pic.twitter.com/mnND6TkgSZ

— canadasairports (@canadasairports) June 28, 2022

Meanwhile, Calgary-based airline WestJet has hired more than 1,000 people across all operational areas, including its contact centre.

"This summer we are restoring our network in Alberta to pre-pandemic levels as we look to welcome back guests to travel," Morgan Bell, manager of media and public relations for WestJet, said in a release.

"With many guests returning to the skies for the first time in more than two years, it’s important they give themselves extra time, plan ahead, prepare for the travel experience, remember to perhaps take a little longer, and to have patience for other guests and staff who might be travelling or working for the first time in many months."

On Thursday, Diederik Pen, chief operating officer of WestJet, said the airline has recruited, trained and retrained more than 500 pilots and has recruited and called back more than 500 crew members. 

At YYC alone, WestJet has hired more than 200 guest services agents to check in and board passengers. 

Pen said while things are picking up, it has reduced its number of flights to help ease pressure at other airports. 

“We’re about 85 per cent of 2019 flights and guests. So, we’ve actually taken down overall in Canada our network because we believe it’s responsible although clearly it hurts at the same time,” he said.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) reminds all travellers, regardless of vaccination status, that they must submit their information on the ArriveCAN app or website up to 72 hours before entering Canada. This is mandatory to avoid potential quarantine periods and fines.

"Travellers returning to Canada should be ready to declare all goods purchased abroad and have their receipts readily available," said Chief Bob Talarico, the acting director of the Central Alberta District, Prairie Region for CBSA.

"Many people are travelling with pets, and pets need to be declared too in order to avoid delays."

Have you followed us on Twitter yet? We have daily tips you need to successfully #flythroughsummer ��️�� pic.twitter.com/OKvjHJr2t4

— CATSA (@catsa_gc) June 28, 2022

The travel demands are also adding to long waits and delays for people who need a passport.

The federal government has a new approach to get passports processed in a timely manner.

Passport offices in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are now prioritizing those who need a passport within 48 hours.

Service Canada says people with longer-term travel plans will be served at other locations.

The federal government is also creating a new task force to look into long delays at airports and passport offices.

The group, made up of a committee of cabinet ministers, will identify areas for improvement and make recommendations.