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Chamber luncheon hears about big plans for YVR

Airport embarks on $1.8 billion in capital improvements

An airport executive discussed future plans for YVR at a Delta Chamber of Commerce luncheon meeting Wednesday.

The airport is embarking on an a $1.8 billion capital program over the next 10 years, said Tony Gugliotta, Vancouver Airport Authority senior vice president, marketing and business development.

"Just like the folks at Alpha Aviation know, when you're running an airport, there's a lot of costs involved, both on a capital as well as operating perspective," he told the audience at the Delta Town & Country Inn.

Alpha Aviation runs the civic-owned Boundary Bay Airport in Delta.

Gugliotta said a lot of that $1.8 billion will go towards dealing with infrastructure like water, sewer, bridges, roads and utilities as well as a portion earmarked to cover costs of extending the runways by 300 metres on each side.

There will also be around $600 million worth of projects solely focused on supporting the airport's aspirations of becoming a more efficient gateway, he noted.

Part of that is streamlining the process international travellers go through while connecting to another flight.

The current connection time is around an hour and 20 minutes to an hour and a half, he noted, adding planned improvements could shave 20 to 30 minutes off that time. Plans include having connecting passengers not entering into pre-security areas, having a satellite customs area and having bags transferred directly so passengers won't touch them.

The airport, which will have about 17.5 million passengers go through it this year, will build a highspeed baggage system, corridors with high-speed moving walkways and has upgrades in the works for the south end of the domestic terminal building.

Gugliotta said 50 per cent of the financing for the capital program will come from the airport's improvement fee, a quarter will come from commercial revenues and the last portion will have the airport take on debt.

Gugliotta also talked about YVR's position as a gateway to Asia.

He said the region's GDP is rising and with that a higher propensity for tourism and business travel.

By 2020, two out of every five travellers in the world will be from Asia, he added.

"It's not just China that's at the cusp in terms of an explosion of travel given where their economy is. It's countries like Indonesia, India as well ... Vietnam shortly."