Edmonton airport facing travel hordes

Spring break for both the public and Catholic school boards falls within the same week as Easter this year, which means more families than ever are heading out of town.

Spring break will be especially busy this year, airport spokeswoman says

Crowds line up to head out of town for spring break, which falls in the same week as Easter this year. (CBC)

Spring break — already a hectic time for travellers — will be even busier this year, says a spokeswoman for the Edmonton International Airport.

The annual break for both the public and Catholic school boards falls within the same week as Easter this year, which means more families than ever are heading out of town.

EIA spokeswoman Traci Bednard said the airport is well prepared to handle the holiday onslaught, which sees a different crowd during spring break compared with other times of year.

"We see a lot more families travelling and we see [more] people traveling internationally and into U.S. destinations and into Europe — not as much Toronto or Vancouver," Bednard told CBC News. "We also see a lot of school trips at this time of year."

'Perfect timing'

Headed to California, Mike Bitzer is looking forward to leaving the snow. (CBC)

Mike Bitzer and Tyler McCallum were on their way to Long Beach, Calif., to catch a cruise to Universal Studios.

"It’s perfect timing," Bitzer said. "All that snow is great to get rid of."

As for the planning of their escape, Bitzer isn’t letting the extra holiday pressure affect their vacation.

"It makes it very difficult to get flights and it’s more expensive," he said, "but it’s [going to be] a great time."

Shane and Diane Hardie left Edmonton for Maui on Saturday.

"It’s been a couple of crazy days for me with my work," Shane said. "I was out in the weather, so now we’re going somewhere that’s totally the opposite. It’s going to be a lot more fun."

The Hardies didn’t realize they would be joining the spring break hordes when they booked their tickets.

"We didn’t pay attention, so we’re going to be surprised I guess," Michelle said. "There are going to be a lot of families out. Hopefully the flights are all [OK]."

Shane and Diane Horne didn't know it was spring break when they booked their tickets. (CBC)

"We’ve never flown in the spring-break time, so we're going to be finding out how busy it really is," Shane added.

Airport well prepared

Bednard says she expects to see a 20 per cent increase above the 18,000 visitors the airport typically sees every day — and that spike could last for up to two weeks.

Adding to the fray will be family and friends making the trek to send off passengers; the usual commuting traveller often arrives and takes off alone, said Bednard.

She added that the airport's new parking system, which allows passengers to reserve spots online ahead of time, may also help to ease that stress. 

Bednard says she thinks the newly expanded terminal and additional staffing measures will be able to handle the crowds.

"Compared to what we saw at Christmas, we don’t expect to see big concerns or big delays," she said. "We just have more space and better amenities now to serve passengers."

More than 80 companies have stores and offices at the EIA, and many have brought in extra staff to help with the holiday rush.

 But that’s not all the EIA is doing to make the travel experience more positive, said Bednard.

"We also try to lighten the mood a little bit and help people start their break early, so we have things like live entertainment happening. As we get closer to Easter, we’ll also be handing away some Easter chocolates and goodies."