Kelowna airport sees dramatic downturn in activity due to COVID-19 regulations - InfoNews

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Kelowna airport sees dramatic downturn in activity due to COVID-19 regulations

March 16, 2020 - 2:20 PM

Kelowna International Airport traffic has dropped off during one of its busiest times of the year as passengers opt to spend their spring break at home.

In the last week, the airport has seen a dramatic decrease of passengers and flights, as the federal government is encouraging Canadians to stay put.

Kelowna airport director Sam Samaddar estimated that there’s been roughly a 60 to 70 per cent decrease of passengers, during what is typically one of the airport’s busiest time of the year as spring break travellers head off to their destinations.

READ MORE: Some ambassadors not volunteering at Kelowna Airport amid COVID-19 pandemic

He said one flight from Kelowna to Las Vegas originally had 140 passengers but when the plane took off, only 12 passengers were actually on the flight.

The airport is still seeing a high number of inbound passengers as residents return home but the numbers are nothing like its regular season, he said.

“There’s going to be a huge economic impact to the broader community,” Samaddar said.

The federal government has announced it will be closing its borders to most people who are not citizens, permanent residents or Americans. Travellers must isolate themselves for 14 days after they arrive.

The government is also restricting overseas flights to Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver airports and mandating airlines to screen passengers for symptoms of the virus before allowing anyone to board a plane.

"The (Kelowna) flights coming out of the Caribbean, U.S. and Mexico are not affected," Samaddar said. "I think the continued impact is travel will continue to drop off. Our local passengers that had flights booked to Mexico or Cuba will most likely not be flying and I think the same will apply to places like Phoenix and Las Vegas, people are just not going to fly."


On March 10, a flight from Vancouver carrying a COVID-19 infected passenger landed in Kelowna.

READ MORE: Person infected with COVID-19 flew on WestJet plane from Vancouver to Kelowna

Kelowna’s airport has already implemented a number of measures prior to this event, Samaddar said, to ensure that both staff and the public are safe.

This includes bolstering cleaning staff members, ensuring they practice social distancing and waiting for additional guidance from the federal government, he said.

With less traffic they may consider layoffs but much of the airport must remain in operation to meet airport regulations, Samaddar said.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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