A look at how travel restrictions are affecting Edmonton International Airport: ‘It’s quiet’

It is eerily quiet at the Edmonton International Airport these days.

Travel restrictions have tightened up around the world in the fight against COVID-19 and as a result, many airports are, naturally, seeing a major slowdown.

“People aren’t travelling much,” said Steve Maybee, EIA’s vice-president of operations and infrastructure.

“They’re staying home, as directed by federal government and provinces.”

Maybee noted that in his almost three decades with EIA, he has never seen the airport this quiet.

“We’re at 10 per cent of our normal traffic,” he said. “Numbers are way down and that’s expected across the board — across aviation as a whole.”

Maybee said the airport has emergency plans in place for operating in tough situations, but “this is unprecedented.”

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“We don’t have any history to go off of,” he said.

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“It’s learning each day from the health authorities — understanding what we have to do, to put in place — and a little bit of trial and error on a few things.

“At the end of the day, it’s about making people safe and employees safe and securing the airport.”

Last week, the federal government announced EIA would temporarily no longer be allowed to accept international flights as part of the country’s effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

READ MORE: Edmonton airport shut down to international flights to prevent COVID-19: Trudeau

Flights from the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean and Saint Pierre and Miquelon will not be affected by the rules.

The only four Canadian airports where international flights can land right now are Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Calgary.

Like Edmonton, notices are up throughout many airports recommending to people returning home after travelling that they self-isolate for 14 days.

As of Thursday, the Quarantine Act makes that mandatory for travellers.

Reminder at EIA baggage carousel to practise physical distancing.
Reminder at EIA baggage carousel to practise physical distancing. Nicole Stillger / Global News
Alert for travelers posted throughout EIA.
Alert for travelers posted throughout EIA. Nicole Stillger / Global News

“If you do not comply with these instructions, you could face serious fines and even prison time,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday morning.

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As part of that federal mandate, travellers with symptoms will need to isolate in the city where they arrive.

Those who don’t have symptoms can carry on to their final destination and isolate there.

For now, at EIA, the lack of traffic has not resulted in layoffs, but like many other businesses, airpoert officials are looking at their financial situation, according to Maybee.

He said the airport is also going to start turning its attention to a rebound.

“This will turn around,” he said. “Airports and aviation is resilient — it has proven to be over the years.”

The timeline for that turnaround, however, is uncertain.

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