The 2010 Winter games
Much of that focus on technology and processing has put Vancouver International in a unique position for handling the upcoming Winter Olympics, say officials.
“We are well into the planning and preparation stage for 2010 right now,” explains Berg. “I have assigned a vice president of Olympic planning, Paul Levy. He’s put together a core team and we’re in full planning mode, both for activities that will occur on the island and those that will occur off it. Involved in all that is the need to coordinate with multiple agencies. That, and we’re the first airport ever to be an official Olympic supplier. The airport gets to use the rings. So we have a commercial and financial relationship.”
Berg says the airport recently opened the first of six Olympics retail stores in the terminal complex, with strong initial sales.
He relates that YVR officials have toured other airports that have been involved in the Olympics –—Turin; Salt Lake City; Athens. A common lesson learned is that the big challenge for airports is managing passengers on departure. “That’s the key thing,” says Berg. “Olympic participants will arrive over a period of a couple of weeks. They’re all going to want to leave the day after. You have to handle that with a level of customer service that leaves a good experience for everybody. So, we’re looking at innovative approaches to that; we’ll be doing an awful lot of off-airport check-in. There will be a couple dozen venues off the airport where we’ll be checking in people and bags, to take the congestion off the airport itself.”
Molloy says that, just as it has with the U.S. Direct trusted traveler program and with the cruise lines, the airport will try to pre-clear as many passengers as possible prior to their entry into Canada.
“The majority of the people who are Olympic family members, VIPs, athletes — we will know about those people in advance,” he explains. “Just like with the cruise ships, we will send them a special information package. When they come off their plane we will hold up a special card for Olympic family members and bring them in bond to their Olympic village, where their bags will be.
“We’re also doing the same on the way out. We have started to push out our pre-check-in to events. In January, 2006, Vancouver hosted the World Junior Hockey Championships. We had the Russian team; the Sweden team; the Czech Republic team; and others. We checked in all the European teams and took their bags and equipment at GM Place, the hockey stadium, the day after the tournament. So instead of coming out to the airport with bags of clothes and hockey gear, we took them at the stadium.”
Regarding what Vancouver International has to learn from previous airports and their handling of the Olympics, Molloy says YVR is more fully vested and integrated into the Games.
“There’s no one who we can say that we want to replicate what they did,” he says. “I’m sure all these airports put lots of energy into it, but I think they had a smaller view of what their role was in the Olympics. Some airports, I would suggest, viewed it as simply being a transit point, not part of the Olympics.
“Our experience in talking with Turin was like that. They said they’d have less passengers than normal because the ski traffic would not be coming because of the Olympics.
“We’re the first airport to be an official Olympic sponsor; the first to be an actual Olympic venue. And I believe we will be the first airport that handles the vast majority of Olympic travel in an ultimate way. We did meet with Beijing and tried to give them some advice; but they were just too far behind the curve. They didn’t understand their own business well enough; they didn’t have the relationships with the airlines.”
YVR is an accreditation facility for Olympic family members, who will be able to get their security passes to Olympic venues when they arrive at the airport. And, Molloy’s team is currently exploring ways to facilitate passenger processing after the Games, to the point of remote check-in immediately following the closing ceremonies.