Edmonton airport prepares for return of international travel: ‘It is really important to us’

Click to play video: 'Edmonton International Airport ready to welcome the world back'
Edmonton International Airport ready to welcome the world back
The border closure and loss of global flights came at a huge cost to the Edmonton International Airport, but as Tom Vernon explains, the reopening means work is underway to bring back lost connections. – Jul 20, 2021

The Edmonton International Airport is preparing to welcome back more travellers, after Monday’s announcement about the easing of border restrictions.

On Monday, the federal government announced American citizens and permanent residents who want to come to Canada for non-essential reasons and are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be allowed to do so starting on Aug. 9.

Fully vaccinated travellers from other countries will be allowed to come as of Sept. 7.

That means EIA is just weeks away from accepting and offering international flights for the first time in 16 months. On Aug. 9, EIA will once again be open to international travel.

“It is really important to us,” said Traci Bednard, VP of corporate and digital communications with EIA.

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The airport took a huge hit when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and shut down international flights to the facility. The airport typically offers between 53 to 55 non-stop destinations, but that dropped to 13 when the pandemic hit.

Click to play video: 'International flights returning to Edmonton airport'
International flights returning to Edmonton airport

Passenger numbers plummeted as a result.

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“On a normal day we might serve about 10,000 departing passengers. In COVID, during really difficult times, we might serve about 300. But we’re up to about 5,000 departing passengers a day now,” Bednard said.

In just the last couple of weeks, Bednard said activity at the airport has gradually begun to increase. Airlines have announced new routes within Canada, but Bednard said it will take some time and work to attract back more of the international flights.

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“We’ll need to continue to work hard for some key business destinations in the U.S. and our international services,” she explained.

“We have never stopped talking, advocating to the airlines. Really for us, what we see as quite optimistic is our community has come forward and the region has made an investment in an air service fund.”

Click to play video: 'Edmonton won’t receive international flights starting Wednesday'
Edmonton won’t receive international flights starting Wednesday

The City of Edmonton recently committed $10 million to that fund, which aims to attract more international destinations to the airport. Surrounding municipalities have also pitched in.

“We’re also working with our chambers of commerce and businesses to demonstrate that collectively air service is the key economic recovery priority for this region and that’s an important message to airlines,” Bednard said.

“Whether it’s companies trying to import product, whether it’s companies trying to get to the U.S. or international destinations to visit their customers, we really need to see that restoration.”

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Know before you go

As travel ramps up across the country, EIA recognizes that many people haven’t travelled since last March and there have been a lot of changes, particularly when it comes to international travel.

Permanent residents and citizens of Canada and U.S. citizens who are fully vaccinated will need to download the ArriveCan app before they depart back to Canada. Then they need to upload their proof of vaccination to the app before they return to Canada, as well as show proof of a negative PCR test.

“For many of us, we haven’t flown for a year and a half and of course now with border restrictions easing, we’ll be able to travel internationally and there are things people need to know.”

On its website, the airport is offering EIA Travel School 101, which will help passengers learn what’s changed and what they need to know before they take their trip.

As of Aug. 9, airports in Halifax, Quebec City, Ottawa and Winnipeg will also be added to the list of Canadian cities where international flights are permitted to land.

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