Airport director Sam Samaddar addresses a group of invited guests Wednesday in the new international arrivals terminal at Kelowna International Airport.

Airport director Sam Samaddar addresses a group of invited guests Wednesday in the new international arrivals terminal at Kelowna International Airport.

Arrivals area takes flight

Kelowna International Airport launches latest expansion of facilities

ALISTAIR WATERS

Black Press

Starting next month, passengers arriving at Kelowna International Airport from the U.S. and Mexico should sail through customs, pick up their bags and be on their way a whole lot quicker.

Thanks to the airport’s latest addition, a new 600-square-metre international arrivals hall, most passengers arriving from across the border can expect to cut their waiting time at YLW by as much as 30 minutes, says airport director Sam Samaddar.

“Now you will arrive, be interviewed by a customs officer and your bags will be waiting for you when you’re done.”

Currently, passengers have to wait for their bags before talking to a customs officer and that wait can be 20 to 30 minutes.

The new international arrivals hall, which will be controlled by the Canadian Border Services Agency, has been added as part of the airport’s overall preparations for handling an estimated total of 1.6 million passengers per year starting in 2015.

The addition completes the $11.3 million first phase of the $50 million, multi-phase, multi-year project. The work is being paid for by money raised through the airport’s improvement fee.

The second phase, to begin next year, will improve the airport’s international outbound baggage system to conform to U.S. standards. It will allow passengers to pick up bags from Kelowna to be checked through to their final U.S. destinations on connecting flights using Seattle or, as of December, Los Angeles, will cost $22 million.

The arrivals hall will have enough space to process up to 250 passengers.

It will streamline the passenger processing experience by allowing the traveller to complete the customs processing prior to retrieving their baggage, resulting in a more efficient and quicker customs experience, said Samaddar.

The airport, which saw 1.4 million passenger pass through its terminal last year, and was the 10th busiest airport in the country, included 79,000 arriving passengers from outside Canada.

Testing of the hall will start on international inbound passengers for selected flights next week and it is expected to be complete next month as the winter schedule begins.

Flights from Mexico, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, in addition to the year-round service from Seattle and Los Angeles (starting Dec. 19), will all be processed through the new facility.