YVR likely to get approval for transit-without-visa program before April

Initiative is likely to spur a spate of new direct non-stop flights out of YVR

Vancouver Airport Authority CEO Craig Richmond: "We have our point person heading to Ottawa next week"

A big announcement that could fuel a series of new direct flights out of Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is expected before April, Vancouver Airport Authority (VAA) CEO Craig Richmond told Business in Vancouver.

VAA executives have lobbied the federal government for years to approve a transit-without-visa program that would allow Asian travellers, for example, to land at Vancouver International Airport (YVR), wait in a lounge area with shops and services and then board a separate flight to Central America or South America – all without having to get a Canadian visa or to go through Canadian customs.

Many Asian workers in the mining sector currently travel to South America via the Middle East because they are able to travel visa-free through that region’s airports.

That could change if Ottawa approves a transit-without-visa program for YVR.

Vancouver is directly en route between Shanghai and Sao Paolo so YVR is an efficient stopover, Richmond said.

“We have our point person heading to Ottawa next week,” he told BIV January 13.

“Nothing has happened for a month because of the holidays but we are really quite close. We have five federal ministers who are in favour of it. We have universal support among the airlines and airports and travel organizations in Canada. It’s just a matter of getting the last bit done.”

Getting federal approval for the transit-without-visa program would not only mean that more passengers would travel through YVR, it would also open the doors for more scheduled, non-stop flights to South American cities such as Sao Paolo or Lima, Peru.

Those direct flights would be a convenience for Vancouver travellers and potentially bring tourists to B.C.

The most recent hurdle in getting approval involved an international agreement that had to be rewritten, Richmond said. That agreement touched on how information about passengers may be sent inter-continentally.

“You can appreciate that there are a lot of fingers on this and it touches a lot of places,” he said.

If Ottawa approves the program, VAA would build a “purpose-built” transfer area that would include the same west coast colour palette, art and architectural details found elsewhere at YVR.

Richmond spoke to BIV after a ceremony to open a connector building between piers A and B at YVR’s domestic terminal.