With travel volume diminished, the normally bustling passenger terminal at the Ottawa International Airport is atypically quiet this summer. But behind the scenes, staff are busy supporting other parts of the airport’s operations – essential cargo flights and Ornge ambulance service, for example, continue uninterrupted – as well as hosting some travellers and crews, while preparing to safely welcome more.
Passenger volumes are ticking upwards as air carriers gradually reintroduce flights, particularly those within Canada – routes that historically comprise a particularly strong market segment for the Ottawa airport.
As travellers return to YOW, they’ll see several new protective measures – some subtle, others more noticeable – aimed at keeping them, airport employees and the wider community healthy. By safely enabling business and leisure travel, the airport is facilitating important visits between local residents and their clients, colleagues, friends and family.
“People need to fly,” says Mark Laroche, the president and CEO of the Ottawa International Airport Authority, noting that Canada’s expansive geography makes air travel a vital form of transportation for many individuals and businesses. “We’re ready to welcome our passengers and business partners back.”
Earlier this year, airport officials established a multidisciplinary committee with representatives from airlines, ground transportation, safety, security and communications, who carefully walked through the terminal to determine areas where passengers may come into close proximity with each other before boarding their plane.
To help space out passengers, decals offering directions on where to queue to respect physical distancing were affixed to the floor in the check-in area, by baggage carousels, in the food court and on the outdoor curbs. Public address system announcements reinforce the need to maintain a safe distance from others.
And while the Ottawa Airport already received high marks for its cleaning practices, its protocols have been further enhanced. Restrooms, kiosks and other high-contact surfaces are being cleaned more frequently and a medical-grade disinfectant is applied to the terminal daily. Hand sanitizer – which was already readily available prior to this spring – is now being more extensively deployed for passenger use.
Other changes include new plexiglas shields at check-in counters, a requirement for staff and passengers to wear protective face coverings and, starting this fall, temperature checks at security. (Some airlines are currently taking passengers’ temperatures at the boarding gate.)
YOW airport officials worked with multiple industry groups as well as government in developing the new procedures to provide passengers with a consistent travel experience as they pass through different airports.
“These measures should provide passengers with peace of mind, knowing their safety is being prioritized,” Laroche says. “Through this focus on serving its community, YOW can do our part to support the country’s broader recovery while continuing to be a major driver of the local economy.”