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Thursday,  July 25, 2024   2:15 PM
YVR commits to $40M plan to improve service after holiday travel chaos
Vancouver International Airport. (Shutterstock/The Bold Bureau)

Real-time weather monitoring equipment, gate protocols and improved communication methods are coming to Vancouver International Airport (YVR) as the facility releases its review of the travel chaos that ensued last December following a snowstorm.

A $40 million action plan was revealed on Monday (April 17), promising more staff, improved training and better technology, as well as investment in equipment to keep aircraft moving and passengers well informed.

The plan follows an After-Action Review of the December 17-28, 2022 travel disruption at YVR, as well as feedback from more than 1,500 passengers and members of the public.

READ MORE: B.C. snowstorm halts all flights at Vancouver airport; cancellations expected all week

"While the review confirms our safety promise was kept, it shows that our customer service commitment was not," said Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO of Vancouver Airport Authority. "Passengers clearly told us that, while they recognize aviation is a complex ecosystem of different partners and players, they want YVR to take a leading role in providing more information, better access to front-line staff, and other improvements in times of extreme travel disruption -- this action plan provides our roadmap for doing just that."

The review highlights both the changing realities of passenger and aircraft traffic post-COVID as well as the impacts of climate change and more extreme weather events.

This puts additional strain on airside services including aprons, gates, and ground handling, YVR says, and systems must be more adaptable for extreme weather disruptions.

Areas of improvement

Key focus areas, with a total of 25 supporting actions, outlined in the review include:

  • Installation of real-time weather monitoring equipment;
  • New gate protocols to ensure arriving aircraft can deplane passengers within 30 minutes of taxiing off the runway;
  • Additional winter weather equipment and de-icing fluid storage capacity to meet the new realities of sustained, extreme weather events.

Last December, severe weather during the busiest days of the year led to 1,300 flight cancellations and other disruptions that affected more than 180,000 passengers, the report says.

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) captures the winter storm as it rolled through last December. (YVR)

In addition, two dozen aircraft with passengers aboard waited up to 11 hours on the tarmac because there were no gates available, while passengers were given inaccurate information.

YVR says more staff will be trained to directly support travellers using better, up-to-date information throughout the terminal 24-7.

The airport is also promising improved digital communications directly to passengers in the terminal about resources available, including accessibility services.

Vancouver was hit with several snowfalls between Dec. 18 and Dec. 23, which caused widespread airline cancellations and delays.

The report says the operational failures over the holiday season did not have a single cause, but rather, demand exceeded processing capacity due to the weather conditions, causing a cycle of delays, cancellations and congestion.

"I want to thank our partners, employees, members of the public, and passengers who took the time to participate in this process," stated Vrooman on Monday. "We have already started to implement many of these actions and your contributions will help us improve resiliency and better serve travellers and our community into the future."

Read the final report and action plan here

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