The first international flight to land at the Kelowna International Airport (YLW) touched down Thursday afternoon.
It’s the first international flight to land in the Okanagan in more than a year and a half.
“It’s been a long time coming for us, about 20 months,” said Phillip Elchitz, YLW’s senior manager of airport operations.
“We are really excited to have our first international arrival today.“
One of those waiting to board the flight to fly south to Washington state is Jeffery Smith.
He says his family has been waiting for this moment, to take his newborn child to meet his extended family in the U.S. but it’s not without a bit of apprehension.
“It’s exciting. We haven’t seen family in a long time, and there’s definitely some nerves with that as well with the pandemic and everything,” Smith told Global News while checking in for his flight.
“But it seems like everyone is handling it really well and we are excited to make this trip.“
Currently, there is only one international flight coming in and out of Kelowna, a midday flight from Seattle with Alaska Airlines.
Airport officials said they expect more international flights to resume in the coming months.
“In the next few months (Alaska Airlines) will be adding an overnight (to Seattle) as well. That’s important because that allows the early departures out of here to get to Seattle, and get the big bank of flights out to the rest of the United States,” said Elchitz.
“Over the next two months, we’ll also see some sun destinations added. Jan. 12 and 13, WestJet will be flying to Puerto Vallarta and Cancun. In February, we’ll see WestJet fly to San Jose del Cabo, as well.”
The airport wants to remind travellers to make sure they understand the protocols that are in place for international travel before booking flights.
“There is an arrival requirement for testing now, “ said Elchitz.
“Anybody arriving from an international destination will be required to take a PCR test and quarantine until that test comes back negative.“
However, according to the airport, some may be exempt from testing and quarantining.
If a traveller is entering Canada from the United States, and has been in America for longer than two weeks, passengers can be choosen at random to do a PCR test and quarantine.
If a traveller from the USA has not been in America for two weeks prior to their flight, they will have to take a PCR test and quarantine.
Airport traffic is brisk so far this holiday season. On Thursday, the airport had around 5,000 people pass through, which would be a typical pre-COVID day at YLW.