Ottawa airport has its busiest day since March 2020 as travel restrictions start to ease

It's the news many have been waiting for—a sign that things are slowly but surely getting back to normal.

Fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents and international students can now travel internationally without having to quarantine in a hotel or isolate for 14 days upon their return, but they'll have to show proof of a negative PCR test before departure, take another one on arrival, and wait for the results at home.

"Once we got the second vaccination, we got excited then we waited for Germans to open the border," said Veena Sharma, who is headed to Berlin with her husband Rajinder to see their grandchildren. "It feels really good when you hear clear, clear, clear."

While travel is starting to ramp up, not much has changed yet at the Ottawa airport. All international flights are still being directed to Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.

"We don't receive directly international passengers, but were getting an increase in passenger volumes," said Mark Laroche, president and CEO of the Ottawa International Airport Authority. He added that Monday was the busiest day at the airport since March 2020, with 1,700 passengers—the majority of those were domestic flights.

"We'd like it to be faster but we understand travel restrictions have to be removed slowly and prudently," he said.

Non-essential travel restrictions remain in place. Canada Border Services Agency warns travellers will still be prohibited from entering the country if they were not eligible to travel before Monday.

Ottawa resident Rami Henry is patiently waiting to visit his father and brother in Egypt. He was scheduled to go in March 2020, but COVID-19 delayed those plans.

Since children under 12, like his daughter, aren't eligible for a vaccine yet and aren't exempt from the quarantine rules, he may go alone later this year.

"She's a huge risk, especially with the delta variant. I wouldn't be comfortable with her travelling anywhere until she gets some sort of first dose," he said.

Meanwhile, the Ottawa International Airport Authority hopes to see things back in full swing by September, if not sooner, so that Canadians can travel freely.

"People are making their reservations already so there is a pent-up demand, so we're hopeful that it's coming soon," Laroche said.