Passenger traffic is down about 30 per cent at Victoria International Airport and several flights have been cancelled as restrictions are imposed on travel amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Sunwing announced Monday that it has cancelled all its south-bound flights between Tuesday and April 9 as it brings travellers home from various destinations. The company is offering full cash refunds or travel credits for customers booked on cancelled flights.
Sunwing and WestJet normally run direct flights between Victoria and Mexico.
Late Monday, WestJet announced it was suspending all scheduled international flights for 30 days as of end of day March 22. After that, it will be operating rescue and repatriation flights in partnership with the Canadian government, said CEOEd Sims.
WestJet also said it will reduce its domestic schedule by 50 per cent for 30 days.
Alaska Airlines flies between Victoria and Seattle and that schedule had not changed as of mid-Monday.
Rod Hunchak, community relations director for Victoria International Airport, said a reduction in the number of passengers travelling through the airport has been noticeable since Friday, the day government officials urged citizens to avoid travel and asked anyone out of the country to return.
“That really tightened people’s decisions on whether or not they were going to continue on with their travel plans or not.
“We’ve seen it through the weekend and into today.”
Several flights have been cancelled on the arrivals and departure boards, likely prompted by lower passenger numbers, he said.
As of mid-day on Monday, eight domestic arrivals and eight domestic departures had been cancelled for Tuesday.
“I think the airlines are going to be consolidating flights,” Hunchak said. “I don’t think they want to fly empty planes.”
He said he expects to hear more information from air carriers in the next couple of days.
Hunchak anticipates passenger declines will remain down about 30 per cent for the next two weeks or so.
Canada Border Services Agency has announced that enhanced screening questions will be carried out at all international airports in Canada, including Victoria.
That means international passengers coming into Victoria will be subject to additional questions, including those arriving from Mexico and the U.S.
The cleaning regime at the airport has been stepped up, Hunchak said, with increased cleaning of public areas and self-service kiosks, and installation of additional hand sanitizers.
He encouraged travellers to check the airport’s website for flight information, at victoriaairport.com, as well as the websites of air carriers.
Some people who want to rebook or cancel flights have been showing up at the airport to avoid long delays by phone, he said, but that only typically works if a traveller booked directly with an airline.
If they used points or a third party, it might not be possible for an airline’s customer service desk at the airport to handle the matter.
Hunchak suggested travellers contact the agency they used to book their trip.