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Labour Day weekend gives YVR a traffic bump

Vancouver International Airport saw 322,327 passengers on Friday through Monday.
Vancouver International Airport has seen year-over-year passenger counts increase.

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) had a busy Labour Day weekend, when 322,327 passengers either boarded or disembarked planes on Friday through Monday – about 0.8 per cent more than the 319,729 passengers who passed through YVR on Labour Day weekend in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the travel industry. 

The Vancouver Airport Authority (VAA) told BIV that its count made the Friday-through-Monday period the second busiest long-weekend of 2023, following the August B.C. Day weekend, in which 328,422 passengers either boarded or disembarked planes. 

Passenger counts have been rising, with this year's four-day Labour Day weekend passenger count being 25.9 per cent more than the 255,974 travellers who passed through the airport on that long weekend in 2022, according to the VAA. 

The VAA has a data projection for the week of Sept. 4 through 10 that is for 518,581 passengers to either board or disembark planes. That total is 2.8 per cent more than the 504,401 travellers who visited the airport on those days in 2019. The two weekly totals are not comparable, however, because part of Labour Day weekend is included in those dates this year, whereas those dates in 2019 did not include Labour Day weekend. 

The VAA earlier this summer projected that nearly seven million passengers would travel through YVR in July, August and September. 

If the count turns out to be exactly seven million, that would be nearly 14 per cent, or 856,978 more people than in those same three months last year, when 6,143,022 passengers passed through YVR.

The projection of seven million passengers at the airport in those three months is more than 7.8 per cent below the 7,597,457 passengers who passed through the airport in July, August and September 2019. 

Increased traffic, combined with issues such as staffing problems at NAV Canada, which is grappling with shortage of air-traffic controllers, and airlines dealing with recruitment challenges, has prompted some flight delays. 

One lingering rationale for why passenger counts in Vancouver are below where they were in 2019 is that the number of weekly non-stop flights between the airport and mainland China is far below what it was pre-pandemic. 

This has led to the visitor count from the entire continent of Asia being down substantially since pre-pandemic. The overnight visitor count from the Asia-Pacific region in June was 119,226, or down 32.2 per cent from the same month in 2019, according to Destination British Columbia number crunching of Statistics Canada data.

The most recent data for foreign overnight visitors to Canada through B.C. ports is for June, when the province welcomed 595,795 foreign overnight visitors. That count is down 28.5 per cent from the same month in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic virtually ground international travel to a halt.

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