New protocols in place at Victoria International Airport

Clear-plastic barriers, signs, and specific entry and exit doorways are among new health-and-safety features unveiled this week at Victoria International Airport.

The TravelSafe YYJ program was implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is designed to educate people about expectations inside the airport and inform them about new health-and-safety protocols.

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Measures are in step with guidelines from the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Air Transport Association and are consistent with measures being introduced at many other airports across Canada, an airport official said.

“TravelSafe YYJ is our commitment that we are doing our part to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure that passengers and staff feel safe and confident while at the airport,” said Geoff Dickson, Victoria Airport Authority chief executive and president.

Victoria Airport officials worked with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, airlines and Acciona, which provides cleaning services, to bring in new processes and enhanced cleaning and sanitization measures.

Everyone who comes inside the terminal — both pre-and post-security — is asked to wear a face covering at all times, said airport spokesman Rod Hunchak.

The Tim Hortons outlet in the pre-security area is selling masks. The airport’s retail outlet, reopening July 6, will carry masks, too, Hunchak said. Masks are also on sale in the post-security clearance area.

New protocols are aimed at reducing the overall number of people inside the terminal.

“We are requesting that only ticketed passengers and those assisting them come into the terminal building,” Hunchak said.

“Just to maintain a less-crowded building.”

Curbside drop off is available as usual. Drivers picking someone up can wait in the free, short-term parking lot, Hunchak said.

Ken Gallant, airport vice-president of operations, said designated staff are on hand to help answer questions. “If someone is coming to assist a passenger, they will be able to come right into the building with them.”

The rotunda and area around the baggage carousels can become crowded when a large flight arrives. The airport expects these new measures help manage numbers and direct passenger flow more effectively.

Arriving passengers are asked to collect their baggage and immediately leave the terminal building.

The door systems have been re-programmed to allow for one-way in and one-way out. Signs throughout the building and on floors are promoting physical-distancing and there is distanced seating.

The terminal now has 60 hand-sanitizers in place and more will be installed. Cleaning schedules have been increased at high-touch areas including seats, check-in desks, escalators, elevators and stair handrails. Washrooms are cleaned hourly.

Staff have use of a high-quality probiotic textile spray that fights unwanted bacteria and viruses on surfaces for three days.

The pandemic has drastically reduced flights. On Tuesday, about 700 to 800 passengers were expected.

Last year in June, 172,000 passengers passed through the building. Final passenger numbers for this June are expected to come in at about 13,000 passengers.

Car rental agencies are open at the airport, as are taxis, but in reduced numbers. The airport shuttle has temporarily stopped service.

Flights are increasing as restrictions ease up. Air Canada, WestJet, Pacific Coastal and Air North are serving the airport.

In June, the airport saw eight or nine arrivals and the same number of departures per day, Gallant said.

On peak days this month, 15 arrivals and 15 departures are expected, he said. June saw flights in and out of Victoria to Vancouver, Calgary and Kelowna. This month Edmonton, Toronto and Whitehorse are being added.

More than $50,000 has been spent on safety improvements, Gallant said.

Further health-related initiatives are expected in the future, including the possibility of new technologies, and new protocols for serving meals.

A new outdoor garden, designed to recognize the efforts of front-line and essential workers, has been installed in front of the terminal.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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