Kelowna airport struggling with staffing shortages amid Omicron

Omicron impacts YLW

Madison Erhardt

Kelowna International Airport is struggling with staffing shortages related to the rapid spread of Omicron.

Senior manager of airport operations Phillip Elchitz says COVID-19 is impacting all areas of operations.

"It has certainly been an interesting journey for both the passengers, the staff and for us as airport operators. We are starting to see significant reductions in staffing due to sick calls really all across the industry," he said.

On Sunday, the concession area of the airport was shut down early due to a number of sick calls from staff. As a result, service was shut down at 6 p.m. Elchitz says the shutdown was only temporary.

"It is very concerning though for us because people arrive at the airport and there is a certain level of expectation that they are going to be able to get something to eat. We believe we have worked through that."

"The other area it is really affecting is baggage delivery. With the number of staff that we can get that is taking a little longer. And then of course having the right amount of check-in agents, that is starting to affect it," Elchitz said.

The aviation industry is also experiencing a pilot shortage.

"That is starting to affect the number of flights and cancellations, not just in Kelowna, but really across the country."

According to the airport, the vaccine mandate has also impacted staffing.

"You have to be fully vaccinated in order to work at an airport. As well in order to work in the restricted area, you have to have a Transport Canada security clearance and that takes up to three months. So if you put all of those pieces together, it is really impacting our ability to staff the facility.

Elchitz says patience and planning are necessary when it comes to air travel.

"The passenger journey is very difficult now than it was even 30 days ago. We continue to operate the facility and we don't have any intentions of not being able to facilitate the demand," he added.

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