New arrivals at YLW
Oct 10, 2012 / 4:00 pm
International travellers heading into Kelowna will be able to get to their next destination quicker following completion of the new international arrivals facility at Kelowna International Airport (YLW).
While it won't be fully functional until the end of November, members of the media and dignitaries got a chance to see the facility for the first time Wednesday.
The new arrivals area is the final piece of the $11.3M phase-one expansion at the airport.
By 2015, $50 million in improvements will be made at YLW during the airport's "Drive to 1.6 Million Passengers Development Program."
Phase-one improvements included several projects now complete:
- International Arrivals Hall and expanded Canada Customs area
- Relocating and upgrading of utilities
- Inbound baggage system adjustments
- Further development of aircraft parking facilities and bridge relocation
- Terminal upgrades including lounge conversion for White Spot Restaurant
- New emergency generator
- Trans-border departures
- Parking and car rental upgrades
YLW manager Sam Samaddar says the new international arrivals area will significantly cut down the time it takes international passengers to get their luggage and go through customs.
"Because it's dynamic processing, it's not static, you're not lining up from one queue to another queue. I would say you would save at least 20 minutes to a half an hour in processing time" says Samaddar.
"It takes about 20 minutes for the bags to come out. While that 20 minutes is occurring, you're now lining up for processing."
Currently, passengers have to wait to collect their luggage before fighting with the rest of the passengers to be processed through customs.
Samaddar says he recalls 20 years ago when international passengers were forced to line up outside on the tarmac in all kinds of weather before they could be processed.
In 2011, 76,000 international passengers were processed through YLW.
Samaddar expects that to grow two to three per cent over the next couple of years with the addition of service to Los Angeles.
The building was designed with a distinct Okanagan flavour.
These include a Rammed Earth Wall depicting the dry colours of the Okanagan landscape and terrain and a welcoming wall with all the communities within the Okanagan region in the shape of a bear.
The building also features several sustainable design features including:
- Incorporation of geothermal energy through a series of wells drilled north of the expansion
- LED lighting throughout
- Large windows to provide natural daylight and allow LED lights to turn off when lighting is sufficient
- Rammed Wall stores warm and cool temperatures and radiates them back into the space.
Mayor Walter Gray reminded residents that, while the airport is within the city and owned by the city, all improvements made come from the Airport Improvement Fund.
"Taxpayers pay nothing for it. It's completely self sustaining," says Gray.
He says the new facility will help define the city moving into the future, adding that many people underestimate the value of YLW to the region.
"This airport is so very, very important to the economy of Kelowna and economy of all the communities of the Okanagan. It is very much a priority of city council and the business community," says Gray.
"Kelowna is what it is today because of the vision back in 1946 to actually have an airport. It just keeps leading the way and reaches out to serve people well beyond the people of Kelowna."
Some finishing touches still have to be put on the new building testing begins with select inbound international flights next week.
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