Vancouver International Flight Hub
Vancouver International Airport took 11th place in the 2015 World’s Best Airports by SkyTrax. This award is bestowed upon airports voted into positions by real airport customers. So technically, this is a people’s choice award, and eleventh place in the whole world is not a bad place to be. However, this is down two spots from their 9th ranking in 2014. Let’s take a look at what makes this airport transit hub worthy of an 11th place rank.
Vancouver International Airport hub has something called BorderXpress Automated Passport Control, designed to get you in and out of Passport and border crossings faster. As a frequent traveler, the author can appreciate this small detail! The way it works is by partially automating the passport control process. You start by scanning your passport, then fingerprints are taken, as is a photo. You answer a few declaration questions on the screen, then show your passport to the human attendant. As of the time of this article, only US Border Crossings are applicable for the BorderXpress automated service. Vancouver was the first to introduce this service in 2009 and have been taking steps to improve it since then. Such improvements include adding the feature to 19 airports and adding up to 26 different languages. Benefits by the number are as follows (taken from the Vancouver website):
- Previously, a human border control technician could check up to 41 passports per hour. The automated system can check at least 162 in the same amount of time.
- Without Automated Passport Control it would take a passenger approximately 37 minutes to get through border checks. With the self-check kiosks, it takes just 4 minutes!
- Because of the availability of the self-check kiosks, the wait time of other customers not using the Automated service is reduced as well…from 50 minutes to 33 minutes.
- A savings is also associated with the amount of space required for the automated kiosks. Previously each human border control technician took up 13 feet of space. The kiosk system needs only 5.8 ft. of space.
Basically, if you don’t want to save time, don’t use the Kiosks. What an amazing system!
Did you know there is an airport luggage and shoe repair shop at the Vancouver International flight hub? How many times have you lost a wheel on your luggage or tore a hole in your bag and just had to suffer through your trip until you got home to fix it? Now you can get it fixed right at the airport. The shop is called Airport Luggage and Shoe Repair and it should be where you are headed if you’ve lost the heel on your favorite pair of $250 pumps or want to fix that squeaky wheel on your tow-behind luggage. They are located in the Domestic Terminal before the security check point level 1.
Priority Baggage is another name you’ll want to remember. They can ship your extra bags home for you so you don’t exceed your baggage limits on your flight. They will come to your hotel or home and help you collect your extras, they have tools you can rent to disassemble your bike for proper shipping or let them pack your bike for you. This is a great system for those with excess baggage or oversized items.
There are three pay lounges at Vancouver’s mega transit hub. The lounges at Vancouver are the world renowned Plaza Premium Lounges and they have locations in 12 countries. It does not matter which class ticket you hold, anyone can pay and make use of the lounges’ offerings. If you are in the mood for a tranquil environment, a warm meal, a cold drink or maybe just a work station to use your laptop to email your client, then the lounge will be just what you need. They have it all. They even have nap rooms, transit hotel, and shower facilities for your use. And, while you are here, take advantage of the free charging stations for your electronic devices. As you know, space to charge them in the airport is very limited and they are in high demand.
Terminals are divided into Domestic, International, USA Terminal and South Terminal. In each is a wide variety of restaurants, bars, shops, and duty-free shops. You can find cafes, bakeries, family and fine dining, fast food and international food options. There is something for everyone and at least one restaurant should look familiar, as they have all the usual names, especially in the fast food arena. If you are in a hurry to get to your gate, you can always pick up ‘Carry On Food,’ as most restaurants have this option and with limited food available on the airplanes these days, it’s a good idea. Choose from sandwiches to salads from Bento boxes to soup!
Shopping for clothing and accessories should be pretty easy too. From iPhones, to books, from clothing to chocolates the Vancouver airport hub has a wide variety to choose from. In the international terminal don’t forget to visit the duty free stores including the “Thinking Canada” store where you can find gifts and memorabilia from your visit to Canada or just the airport. Find maple syrup, smoked salmon, t-shirts and more with quirky Canandian sayings. Also in Terminal 3, there is a Vancouver Aquarium store. If you visited the world famous Vancouver Aquarium while in Canada, then perhaps you want to take a piece of your experience home with you. The Aquarium store features toys, books, clothing and accessories themed from the famous Aquarium.
Don’t forget to visit the Public Observation Area which is basically an observation deck. The area is a massive glass-enclosed area where you can view airplanes and airport operations. There is no fee to visit the Public Observation Area and there is room to seat 150 people. Within the observation area there are telescopes where you can view airplanes during take-off and landing. You’ll also find interactive kiosks with different things to do such as listen to air traffic controllers and watch a movie that follows your luggage on its personal journey through the airport to your airplane. Kids and adults alike will love this different view of the airport and it’s a great way to pass the time.