Vancouver’s airport is preparing for a deluge of athlete and spectator departures at the close of the 2010 Games that will make their previous busiest day seem like a gentle drizzle in comparison.

“Everyone wants to leave town on the day after the closing ceremonies,” said Paul Levy, the Vancouver Airport Authority’s vice-president of 2010 Olympic planning. “(We) need to be prepared for a couple of days like we’ve never seen before.”

As many as 39,000 people and upwards of 77,000 pieces of luggage will depart on March 1 — shattering YVR’s previous record from August 2008 of 26,000 passengers and 29,200 bags.

To accommodate the large number of passengers, a 30,000-square-foot temporary terminal will be opened on Sea Island. As well, athletes and officials will be able to check-in 24 hours ahead of their scheduled departure at both athlete villages.

On March 1, the airport even plans to slip helpful reminder cards under hotel room doors asking passengers to be at YVR four hours ahead of their flight.

YVR has also invested $30 million to purchase snow-removal and de-icing equipment to avoid the chaos, long delays and cancelled flights it experienced last Christmas Eve.

It added 10 pieces of snow-removal equipment, bringing its total to 17 to speed up runway clearing times. It has also centralized its de-icing operations, so carriers no longer have to do their own de-icing.

Looking ahead

• YVR is expecting that an additional 231,000 passengers will pass through the airport during the Games period, including the daily arrival and departure of about 200 to 300 extra corporate aircraft.

• While the average passenger travels with 1.6 bags, an Olympic athlete travels with six to seven pieces of luggage, most of which are oversize.

• All flights during the Games that haven’t been screened will have to land at a portal airport like Abbotsford or Kelowna, and passengers will have to go through security before the flight can proceed to Vancouver.

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