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Traffic is high and staffing levels are low at Kelowna airport

A Kelowna International Airport employee stands outside of the airport.

Staffing shortages are ongoing at the Kelowna International Airport, which keeps on getting busier.

“It’s not just the food and beverage services, it’s impacting entire airport ecosystem,” airport director Sam Samaddar said.

“It’s making it harder to restart things.”

READ MORE: 'Economic enabler': How the founding of Kelowna airport 75 years ago turned the city around

The challenge is not unique to the Kelowna airport, he said, as many others across the country are closing concessions or limiting the hours due to lack of staff.

“There’s a tremendous demand from the consumer,” he said. “We’re still trying to catch up.”

Staffing shortages are common in many industries, it’s a challenge that comes with extra hurdles in the airline industry.

Airports require applicants to clear strict security clearances, which have to be done through RCMP and CSIS in Ottawa, Samaddar said, and there is a currently a backlog due to the collective need for more workers.

“Then there’s training, then learning all the security safety systems,” he said. “Hiring staff is a little more complicated for an airport.”

Airport traffic is trending upwards as a result of several factors – expensive gas, cheap airfare, warming weather and lifted restrictions, Samaddar said. He is expecting Monday, May 23 to be the busiest day at the airport in more than two years. 

The upward trend is due mostly to domestic travel.

READ MORE: Kelowna airport seeing faster recovery of domestic flights than international ones

The most popular destinations from Kelowna continue to be Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, he said. Toronto and Winnipeg are also common cities.

And Kelowna now has direct flights to Montreal, Kitchener, Waterloo, Hamilton – none of which were options before the pandemic.

“So we’ve added quite a few city pairs within Canada.”

Popular cities in the U.S. – like San Francisco, Las Angeles, Denver and St. Paul – used to have flights to and from Kelowna and Samaddar said work is underway to bring those back.

The international has been slower to recover, which was to be expected, he said. Some countries, particularly in Asia, are still under heavy pandemic-related restrictions and that leaves many travellers feeling uncertain.

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