June 13, 2012
Vancouver airport embarks on ambitious upgrade plan
Vancouver International Airport is committed to years of construction and is investing almost $2 billion on improvements designed to improve the facility.
“We need to grow and take advantage of the things our competitors don’t have,” said John Lenahan, director engineering projects with Vancouver international Airport. “The main aim of the 10-year strategy is to retain our current position and grow.”
He said that after 80 years of operation, they still want to be the gateway to the Orient.
Lenahan was speaking at a breakfast meeting of the Vancouver Regional Construction Association on June 6.
He outlined $1.8 billion worth of construction projects in the Vancouver airport’s strategy.
Lenahan said that being the closest major terminal to Asia on the west coast of North America is no longer a competitive advantage.
New technology and the collapse of the Soviet Union, allowed planes to pass over the polar region on their way to China.
It has increased competition from other airports including Calgary, Edmonton, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago.
“The most important construction projects currently underway at the airport are an expedited baggage system in combination with secure corridors,” said Lenahan.
“This will fuel the implementation of new regulations that will allow passengers to transfer planes without having to claim their bags.”
The Capital Plan allocates funding over a 10-year span and identifies what infrastructure will be built and when.
The plan includes upgrades to the original areas of the 1968 domestic terminal building, runway safety enhancements, new high-speed baggage systems, enhanced safety and security, as well as more than 700 metres of secure corridors and moving walkways to reduce connection times for passengers.
The strategy allocates $286.4 million for airside projects, including runways and taxiways, while $488.7 million will be invested on the domestic terminal building upgrades.
Upgrades to the international terminal will cost about $408 million and another $559.8 million for Sea Island and airport infrastructure upgrades, such as bridges, roads and dikes.
Lenahan said these projects are needed to cut the time passengers need to transfer flights from 90 minutes to less than an hour.
Other factors that are critical for improving the airports competitiveness are minimizing costs to the airlines, as well as preserving and enhancing the passenger experience.
According to Lenahan, the Vancouver Airport Authority recently signed a deal with Sichuan Airlines, which is offering North America’s first and only direct flight to China’s interior.
Beginning June 22, Sichuan Airlines will offer service three times per week between Vancouver and Chengdu, via Shenyang.
Chengdu has a population of 14 million people and is the capital of Sichuan Province.
Shenyang has a population of 8.1 million and is the capital of Liaoning Province. Both of these cities are important economic, transportation and commercial hubs.
Lenahan said another important measure, which has increased Vancouver airport’s competitiveness, is the elimination of the aviation fuel tax for international commercial flights operating out of B.C.’s airports.
The aviation fuel tax relief is a measure that supports Canada’s Pacific Gateway, by making it easier for airports in B.C. to compete for international traffic with airports in Alberta and Washington State that don’t have this type of tax.
YVR is Canada’s second busiest airport, serving about 17 million passengers in 2011 and handling more than 258,000 aircraft landings and take-offs.
The airport employs more than 23,600 people and is home to 400 businesses. In 2010 it contributed $1.9 billion to Canada’s economy in terms of Gross Domestic Product.
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