A plane passes over downtown Sidney, shrouded in smoke from wildfires in the United States, on its way toward Victoria International Airport Tuesday morning. A spokesperson for the airport said Wednesday that the smoke has not impacted flight service, unlike in the United States. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

A plane passes over downtown Sidney, shrouded in smoke from wildfires in the United States, on its way toward Victoria International Airport Tuesday morning. A spokesperson for the airport said Wednesday that the smoke has not impacted flight service, unlike in the United States. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Planes still flying in and out of Victoria International Airport despite wildfire smoke

Passenger numbers down drastically due to COVID-19

A spokesperson for the Victoria International Airport said smoke from wildfires lingering across the region has not impacted service.

“There hasn’t been any impact, there haven’t been any delays,” said Rod Hunchak, community relations director, business development at Victoria International Airport.

“I guess we should be grateful that the smoke hasn’t compounded issues here,” he added. “Right now, we are doing what we can in assisting carriers with their flights. Thank goodness it hasn’t added to date any additional hardships or burden to the flight operation.”

He made these comments while smoke from wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington State continue to blanket the larger Pacific Northwest region, prompting Alaska Airlines to temporarily suspend all flights in and out of Portland International Airport (PDX) and Spokane International Airport (GEG) due to the smoke earlier this week. Service has since resumed.

Hunchak added that the question of possible service suspension lies within the hands of Nav Canada in conjunction with the airlines.

“It’s not a call we make,” he said. “There is equipment that determines visibility and that really is part of the processes Nav Canada [uses in] determining whether or not they are going to allow aircrafts to operate.”

RELATED: Wildfire smoke lingers over Greater Victoria

RELATED: Wildfire smoke blowing through Greater Victoria for up to two days: Environment Canada

RELATED Washington wildfires likely cause for Greater Victoria’s smoke-filled skies

Looking more broadly, 2020 continues to be an “unprecedented” one for the airport against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to massive drops in total passengers, air cargo and aircraft movements through the airport.

Consider July, compared to July 2019, total passengers numbers are down 81.5 per cent, with air cargo down 31.7 per cent. Total aircraft movements dropped 16.8 per cent.

Compared to the period of January through July 2019, total passenger numbers dropped 63.9 per cent, with air cargo down 30.8 per cent. Total aircraft movements dropped 30.8 per cent.

Notably, these figures mark an improvement to the figures during the height of pandemic measures. In April, for example, the total number of passengers travelling through the airport dropped almost 98 per cent compared to the same month in 2019.

RELATED: Pandemic nearly grounds passenger count at Victoria International Airport

Looking ahead, it is far too early to say how numbers might shake out over the rest of the year. Passenger numbers “might be down in a range between 60 to 75 per cent,” said Hunchak. “We are monitoring. Just like every other airport, the situation changes month to month. We are just doing the best we can, using the information and watching traffic patterns. The trend in the last couple of months is going up and we hope that they [passenger numbers] continue in that direction.”

The Peninsula News Review has reached out to Nav Canada for comment and will update this story accordingly.


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

CoronavirusVictoria International AirportWildfires

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Trevor Davis, base manager of the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation in Sidney, stands in front of the Hecate Sentinal, an oil skimming vessel based at Sidney’s Van Isle Marina. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Oil spill response base taking shape on Saanich Peninsula

Enhanced base with elements in North Saanich and Sidney to be fully operational in fall 2022

The O’Meara family – (left to right) Mari, Max, Adam and Rei – spent Saturday afternoon picking out the perfect tree. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Santa’s Forest tree sale in Saanich implements one-way perusing, curbside pick up

Christmas tree, wreath sales in Braefoot Park through Dec. 24

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

(Black Press Media file)
Webinars help Greater Victoria residents affected by dementia prepare for the holidays

COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions can add additional challenges for people living with dementia

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Most Read