Kelowna International Airport officials say the annual crush of passengers moving through its terminal over the holidays has, so far, been smooth sailing.
Airport spokesperson Janelle Hynes said a combination of the airport’s peak holiday travel plan and excellent weather conditions resulted in smooth operations at the airport over Christmas as an estimated 50,000 people passed through the airport between Dec. 15 and 25. The total is twice the normal amount for a regular 10-day period during the year.
Another 50,000 passengers are expected to pass through the terminal by Jan. 7.
“It’s difficult for any facility to prepare for that kind of an increase over a two-week period,” said Hynes, but, she added, with a plan such as the one the airport uses to handle peak travel periods, life is a whole lot easier.
Exact numbers will not be known until early in January, but December could break the monthly record of 126,513 passengers who used the airport in December 2010.
Despite the increased numbers, lineups have been kept to a minimum and even at security, normally a choke point for most airports, people have been moved through quickly.
Meanwhile, work has started on the first phase of the latest expansion of the airport, the international arrivals area.
With more flights to and from the U.S. and Mexico coming on line all the time — the latest being direct flights eight months of the year to Las Vegas — Hynes said a bigger international arrivals area is needed.
As part of the airport’s drive to increase the number of passengers it handles per year to 1.6 million, several other areas of the operation are also to be expanded over the next few years.
In addition to domestic flights to larger centres like Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto, as well as smaller Canadian cities, Kelowna’s airport also now has direct flights to Seattle and seasonal flights to Las Vegas, Phoenix, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and Los Cabos.
Hynes said other routes are constantly being looked at and a Kelowna-San Francisco route is currently being considered.
Kelowna International is the 10 busiest in Canada and handles 1.2 million passengers per year.