YYC Calgary International Airport holiday travel tips

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The YYC Calgary International Airport is kicking off its busiest time of year as pre-pandemic levels of travellers arrive and depart in swarms for the holiday season.

Upward of 50,000 guests per day are expected between Dec. 16 and Jan. 3, with the busiest days forecasted to be Dec. 22, 23 and 27.

For those doing the math, that’s approximately 1.3 million people making their way through the airport. The Calgary Airport Authority is asking travellers to plan ahead and be prepared before flying to save time and make their experience more enjoyable.

“We are recommending that you arrive early at the airport,” said Chris Miles, vice-president of operations and infrastructure with the Calgary Airport Authority. “So if it’s a domestic departure that’s two hours prior and for an international departure that’s three hours prior.

“We are also the first airport to offer a pre-booking service for security which is an opportunity for guests to go online to our website three days prior to arrival or departure, select your airline, flight number and a time when you’d like to go through security.”

The airport is also offering 20 minutes of free parking in its short-term lots from Dec. 15 to Jan 3 and 60 minutes of free wait time in its cell phone lots for picking up arriving passengers.

In an effort to reduce wait times, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) is also reminding airport guests to ‘pack savvy’ this holiday season.

CATSA spokesperson Sandra Alvarez says seasonal items that should be packed in check-in bags rather than carry-on include bath salts and items that contain over 100 millilitres of liquid including snow globes and bottles of holiday cheer. 

Whether in checked bags or carry-on, gifts should not be wrapped.

“It’s also important to recognize your belongings when you’re going to pre-board screening,” said Alvarez. “Placing stickers on personal items like laptops can help distinguish yours from someone else’s.

“Be aware of different toys that might put you over the limit. Things like Orbeez, which are little balls filled with gels or liquid, still have a restriction of under 100 millilitres.”

The Calgary Airport Authority expects upward of 1.3 million passengers will arrive at, or depart from, YYC Calgary International Airport over the holiday season.

PREPARING FOR YOUR RETURN

The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) is reminding travellers to check the ‘I Declare’ web page before travelling and to have all of their documentation ready to be checked when they arrive.

“We want to get you out the door as quickly as possible, but don’t forget to declare everything that you’re bringing with you that you’ve either purchased or that you’ve received,” said Lisa White, CBSA’s director for Central Alberta. 

“You can travel with up to $10,000 Canadian without having to declare but anything over and above $10,000 Canadian must be declared.”

White adds that the removal of the ArriveCan app is also one less thing for travellers to worry about, but other programs are being looked at to streamline the custom process.

“As you’re seeing in other airports across the country, there’s advanced declaration and parts of those platforms,” said White. “The hope is to leverage the technology to streamline even more quickly so that will be coming to YYC in 2023 at some point, but we’re not quite there yet.”

Holiday travellers who will be returning to Canada are encouraged to visit the Canadian Border Services Agency’s I Declare website for a list of guidelines.

SPREADING SOME HOLIDAY CHEER 

The YYC Calgary International Airport is once again getting into the holiday spirit with its Festival of Trees displays set up throughout the terminals along with special pop-up musical performances.

White hat volunteers and YYC customer care ambassadors are also available to help guests navigate a barrier-free airport experience by providing wayfinding, mobility and translation services.

For those needing some emotional support, the Pre-Board Pals program is back once again with service dogs on site to help calm the nerves of guests dealing with a stressful travel experience.

“The idea is to come help people who are feeling that extra stress or are scared to fly, we just want to bring them joy,” said Victoria Winslow with the Pre-Board Pals program.

“I have sat with people as long as 45 minutes before and young children tell us their heart rate drops just by petting our dogs so it creates a sense of happiness and community as well.”

The four-legged members of the Pre-Board Pals will help take some of the stress out of holiday travel at YYC Calgary International Airport.

WESTJET COMMITS TO EFFICIENT TRAVEL EXPERIENCE

Over the course of the holiday season, WestJet says it expects up to 140 daily departures to destinations across Canada, the United States, Mexico, Hawaii, and the Caribbean.

Following technical disruptions to its check-in service last month, the airline says it is now better prepared to handle and mitigate any issues that may arise.

“We have recently just hired 60 new people specifically to help on the ramp and help our service partners and bolster the oversight and the support for our baggage,” said Colleen Tyan, WestJet’s vice-president of airports.  

“From an IT perspective, we’ve done some redundancy testing and we’ve enhanced some of our self-serve functionality so it’ll be really important that our guests come to the airport checked in so that we can help make sure that their travel flow here at the airport is as smooth as possible.”

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