The Friday before Christmas is typically the busiest day of the year at the Edmonton International Airport. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, airport officials say this year will be one of the slowest holiday seasons in 20 years.
“It’s quite a different year for us at the airport,” said Steve Maybee, vice president of operations and infrastructure with Edmonton Airports.
An estimated 5,959 people will pass through the doors of EIA on Friday, a much lower number than the 23,000 to 24,000 passengers the airport typically sees on this day. On Dec. 17, 2018, for example, 23,232 people departed from or arrived at EIA. That’s about a 74 per cent passenger decrease.
“This being typically our busy time of year, we won’t see the numbers. People are just staying home,” he said. “So it’s drastically much slower.”
There were no major lineups at check-in counters or through security at EIA on Friday morning. What would typically be a backlog of vehicles along the curbs outside the building was smooth sailing.
“It puts a lot less pressure on the airport and the system,” Maybee said.
“We usually staff up and have people here working early mornings and doing everything we can to get people through the process much quicker. We’re not going to have that pressure this year, which is unfortunate, but we absolutely understand why people are choosing to stay home for their safety.”
Global News spoke to a few passengers at the airport Friday, one who said they were heading to Mexico.
Jake DeBrusk, an NHL player with the Boston Bruins, was at the airport early Friday morning heading to Massachusetts to prepare for training camp.
“Just getting ready to go there and come down early and get settled to skate and practice,” he said.
He admitted travel looks a bit different than before the pandemic.
“Obviously there’s lots of things you have to do and different security precautions you have to take. I haven’t travelled much at all during this pandemic — kind of in between here and there — I think they do a good job keeping it safe.”
The travel process has changed at the airport, with new screening measures in place. Maybee encourages passengers to check out the airport’s website before heading to the airport.
“Just look up what’s changed because the process does look different. You’re going to be asked different questions, you’re going to have temperature screening when you go through security. So it’s nice to be aware of those changes before you get here.”
In April, shortly after the pandemic hit, Maybee said airport traffic dropped by about 96 per cent. Over the summer, EIA was forced to lay off about 40 per cent of its workforce.
With files from Kim Smith, Global News.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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