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YVR passenger count expected to exceed pre-pandemic level this winter

Fuller and larger planes are expected to carry those passengers
Air Canada is flying Dreamliner Boeing 787-9 planes on its non-stop YVR-Dubai route, which launched this past Friday

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is expected to accommodate more passengers this winter than it did during the 2019-2020 season before the COVID-19 pandemic brought travel to a virtual stand-still. 

BIV asked the Vancouver Airport Authority, which manages YVR, for a projected passenger count this winter that could be compared with the same dates in the months that preceded the pandemic. 

The airport authority said it anticipates 4,289,753 passengers to either board or disembark flights at YVR between Dec. 22 and Feb. 27, up more than 1.6 per cent from 4,220,317 such passengers during the same dates in the 2019-2020 winter season.

Despite that increased passenger count, the VAA only expects 39,479 flights at YVR during that time period, down about 10.7 per cent from the same time period in the 2019-2020 winter season.

That indicates that planes are either slightly larger or more full than in the 2019-2020 season. 

This afternoon, Air Canada's managing director for international sales planning Tim Liu told BIV that his airlines' planes tend to be larger and more full than they were in 2019. 

"I think you have both," he said. "Obviously, the planes are fuller than before. Depending on the destination, we're putting on some of the larger aircraft. So that could be the result."

Liu said Air Canada's overall passenger capacity is at about 90 per cent what it was in 2019, and that Vancouver's share of the airline's passengers is about the same proportion as it was four years ago.

Helping Air Canada's passenger count into and out of Vancouver this winter will be those aboard its new four-times-per-week YVR-Dubai flights, which are set to launch tonight at 9:15 p.m.

Other airlines are similarly shifting to larger planes on routes into Vancouver.

Earlier this week, Fiji Airways' regional general manager for the Americas, Stroebel Bekker told BIV that his airline recently increased the size of the planes that it uses on its year-old non-stop route between YVR and Fiji. That airline is also increasing its frequency to Vancouver to three times per week, up from twice per week, in December and January, Bekker said.

He added that his aim is to have the route be three times per week year-round.