The COVID-19 pandemic has made for some turbulent times for the air travel industry.
This week, Kelowna International Airport released its final passenger numbers for 2020 and they are, unsurprisingly, low.
More than 737,000 air travellers made their way through YLW last year. The airport says that’s a 64 per cent drop from the more than 1.2 million passengers in 2019.
“It’s going to take several years to recover,” said Philip Elchitz, senior manager of airport operations at YLW.
“We’re not expecting to get back to pre-pandemic levels until 2024,” Elchitz added.
Prior to 2019, the story for YLW was much different.
Between 2016 and 2018, the airport experienced unprecedented passenger growth, mainly driven by expanded air service and flight connectivity, population growth and economic activity in the region.
By early last year, YLW had projected to reach 2.25 million passengers by 2025 — but that won’t happen now according to Elchitz.
“We’re hoping we can get back to the pre-pandemic level by 2024, so that puts our entire projection into question.”
The last time YLW saw passengers numbers as low as 2020, was in 1997.
As an essential service, YLW remains, whether it’s to connect patients to necessary medical care or for essential work travel.
But when it comes to non-essential travel, Elchitz believes more needs to be done on the federal level if we are to see any kind of improvement.
He’s calling on Ottawa to act swiftly by putting a national strategy in place that includes rapid testing for all air travellers in Canada.
“So we can ensure that all passengers have some sort of rapid testing they can get within 20 minutes,” said Elchitz. “That will ensure there is no transmission from community to community.”View link »