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Victoria airport working to avoid winter storm chaos this holiday season

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The busy Christmas travel season is almost upon us and this year the Victoria International Airport says it’s been working hard to prevent a repeat of the days-long travel chaos that happened last year.

On Thursday, it was business as usual at the Victoria International Airport. That wasn’t the case last December.

In 2022, three major snow events hit the island, with the largest walloping the South Coast one week before Christmas.

“During that period, we had about 550 flights scheduled to come and go from Victoria and about 30 per cent of those were cancelled,” said Ken Gallant, vice-president of operations for the Victoria Airport Authority.

Now the Victoria Airport Authority says it’s ready in case Mother Nature attempts a repeat.

“Our main goal here is to ensure a traveller's journey is as seamless as possible,” said Gallant.

In order to make sure that happens, YYJ has made some considerable investments.

Three new pieces of heavy equipment have been purchased, including a runway sweeper and two plows. That will keep the airport operational during a snowstorm.

Another issue that came up: parking. YYJ has now expanded its parking spaces to 300 spots. The reason: piles of plowed snow had nowhere to go, consuming the limited parking lot.

“One of the things we are initiating this year is a snow desk,” said Gallant. It's a centralized communications hub that internal stakeholders can access for updated information.

The airport authority has also launched a new website that will update passengers faster. As well, it has created a passenger engagement officer position to assist travellers at the terminal.

In Vancouver, change also came after a chaotic holiday season in 2022. Those changes include the installation of better weather monitoring equipment and building greater capacity for snow removal equipment and de-icing fluid.

“We spent the last year implementing those 130 initiatives (with) $40 million dollars, virtually every aspect of the airport has been improved,” said Tamara Vrooman, YVR president and CEO.

YYJ is expecting to roughly 6,500 passengers through the terminal building daily this holiday season and says it’s ready in case we get a white Christmas.

“Our plans are up to date and we’ve looked at ways that we can continue to respond to a snow operation,” said Gallant.

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