With as many as 17 million people passing through each year, award-winning Vancouver International Airport, or YVR, is the second busiest airport in Canada.
Since late March, 2020, the federal government has been advising Canadians against all non-essential travel (both domestically and out-of-country). It has also been mandating that travelers arriving from abroad self-isolate for two full weeks. Canadian borders are also closed to all foreign nationals (except for airline flight staff, family members of Canadians and permanent residents, vehicles involved in commerce, and members of the diplomatic service).
In late January, 2021, the federal government announced a number of new travel restrictions affecting international travelers. First, the government has cancelled flights to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean until further notice. Passengers returning to Canada must now also take a COVID test upon arrival and self isolate for three days in an approved hotel at their own expense (which can cost around $2000).
As of the first week of February, 2021, international passenger flights are also restricted to landing at just Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto airports.
Prior to the latest restrictions mentioned above, travelers arriving at YVR from out of the country have also had to fill out an official government COVID-19-related form and declare whether or not they are experiencing any symptoms related to the virus. Outbound passengers showing symptoms of the coronavirus have not been permitted to board. As of early January 2021, inbound passengers have also had to provide proof of having received negative results for a COVID test prior to their flight.
Since April 20th, 2020, all airline passengers on domestic flights have been required to wear non-surgical masks or other face coverings. All inbound international travelers must also have written plans outlining how they plan to self-isolate upon arrival in Canada.
To learn more about how the current pandemic is affecting the airport and air travel in general, see the YVR Airport website.
Vancouver YVR Airport
If you’re visiting Vancouver from afar, chances are pretty good that you’ll be passing through Vancouver’s main airport (unless you arrived on a cruise ship or have been driving a long ways).
With over 17 million people on average passing through its gates every year, YVR is the second busiest airport in Canada. The other two airports of significance in the region are the Abbotsford International Airport (home of the Abbotsford Airshow every summer in August) and the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre (located downtown by the Vancouver Convention Centre and home to Harbour Air, which also offers departures from YVR).
As far as airports go in the world, Vancouver’s is one of the best. Yes, be prepared to do a fair bit of walking from one end to the other, but the facility is well laid out and has a good selection of interesting shops and restaurants to help pass the time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on air travel at YVR (as well as all over the world). Airline travel at YVR dropped over 72% between 2019 and 2020. In 2019 over 26,000,000 passengers travelled through the airport as compared to just over 7,000,000 in 2020.
In normal years YVR would operate non-stop flights to hundreds of destinations across the world. 2019 flights included non-stop routes to the United States, Mexico, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Caribbean. However, most of those routes have been suspended due to the coronavirus and the accompanying governmental restrictions on travel.
The airport itself has won several awards for its design. Skytrax ranked YVR as the Best North American Airport in 2007 as well as for 11 consecutive years from 2010 through 2020. It also ranked in the top 10 on the international list of best airports from 2012 to 2014.
YVR is also one of the busiest airports in Canada, second only to the Toronto Pearson International Airport. Air Canada, West Jet and Air Transat all use YVR as one of their airport hubs.
Seaplanes and Helijet Helicopters
In addition to serving commercial airlines with their big regular planes, Vancouver Airport also has a seaplane terminal and a heliport.
Harbour Air operates its float planes out of a terminal on the Fraser River very close to YVR Airport’s South Terminal. The address for Harbour Air’s Richmond location is 4760 Inglis Drive.
Helijet is a helicopter company that offers flights to Victoria, Nanaimo, Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert. They have a heliport in downtown Vancouver just a block or so east of Waterfront Station‘s SeaBus terminal. Their Richmond location at YVR Airport is at 5911 Airport Road South.
Tips and Advice
TIP #1: With public transit, from YVR to downtown Vancouver is two zones, or one zone on Saturdays and Sundays. If you plan to do more travelling later in the day, especially on a weekday at full price, and you expect to use Public Transit for three or so extra trips on the same date, or just two longer ones, then consider buying a day pass at less than $11 for an adult.
TIP #2: McArthurGlen is a designer outlet shopping mall that’s just a 5-minute drive from the airport. If you get to the airport early and want to do some shopping, it can be a good place to go. It’s also just two SkyTrain stops away.
TIP #3: Be aware that McArthurGlen can get insanely busy around Black Friday, Boxing Day and at other times during the Christmas shopping season. It can get so busy, in fact, that it can cause traffic delays for people trying to get to the airport. During busy shopping seasons, give yourself lots of extra time if needing to catch a flight.
Other topics that might be of interest include the following:
- BC Ferries
- Harbour Air Seaplanes
- Vancouver Cruise Ships
- Vancouver Hotels
- City of Vancouver
- City of Richmond
- Vancouver’s Top 100 Places
- Victoria’s Best Places