Six hours in Vancouver airport
June 29, 2008 3:07 PM   Subscribe

My brother is taking a cheap flight from England to visit us in Seattle, which has a stop in Vancouver (YVR) for six hours. Is there anything taht can be done within that time that's worth doing? Would it actually be possible to get out of the airport? Or should I just tell him to bring a book?
posted by Artw to Travel & Transportation around Vancouver, BC (32 answers total)
Is it possible to go pick him up? 2 hours up/2 hours back beats 6 hours sitting in an airport waiting for an hour-long flight.
posted by tristeza at 3:17 PM on June 29, 2008

It's possible to get out of the airport, sure, but keep in mind if he leaves a secured area, he'll have to go back through security. This means that if lines are long, he'll need to set aside enough time to pass back through security.

So with 6 hours, you'd probably want to be back in the secured area waiting to board no later than one hour before takeoff. Assuming it'll take him roughly an hour to get back through security, that only leaves him with 4 hours to spend doing whatever.

I've never personally been to YVR, but looking at a map shows there probably isn't much nearby without having to take a cab. (It looks like the Canada Line will reach YVR by 2010, however!)

However, if he does indeed chose to stay, YVR was voted the best airport in North America by Skytracks, so it's probably not too bad.

If it were me, I'd stay in the airport.
posted by nitsuj at 3:22 PM on June 29, 2008

How desperate do you think he will be to get out of the airport? If he wanted to go somewhere like Stanley Park he would be looking at about a minimum 30min cab ride, at atleast $30. Plus he will also need time to reclear customs. He might be able to go out for a meal in Richmond, as there are many excellent Chinese and Asian restaurants and food courts to be had for a quick (10-15min cab ride) trip.

Not that it is the funnest place in the world, but the secure gate areas for US/International flights do have several restaurants/bars/newstands and coffeeshops (Stock up on TimBits!)
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 3:23 PM on June 29, 2008

Six hours? I would suggest that he rent a car and drive to Seattle.

It is a very nice airport, though. Probably one of the nicest food courts of any airport I know.
posted by charlesv at 3:23 PM on June 29, 2008

Also, I think if he has a laptop and sticks around the International gates for a while, the wifi is free.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 3:26 PM on June 29, 2008

The security / customs getting back into the gate area can be a massive line. Canada Customs can be real pricks if they have a mind to. Conceivably, your friend could spend 90 minutes getting out of YVR and 90 getting back in. My advice would be to avoid Canada Customs and stay in the transit area if at all possible.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:29 PM on June 29, 2008

N'thing taking a laptop of he has one. Since I gave up on TV, too much commercials and reaility show crap, my computer has it's my primary source of entertainment. DVD's help too. Shouldn't be too difficult to kill six hours.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 3:52 PM on June 29, 2008

Well I'll go against the tide here and say that six hours is enough time to do something outside the airport. I've never flown internationally out of YVR but have flown domestically. The airport is not crazy far from the city proper and it's not that huge a city to begin with -- assuming half an hour each way into/back from Vancouver and two hours through security that's still three hours to do something, even if it's just to go to a mall or whatever.

I assume he's already got a ticket so advising to drive to Seattle is pointless.
posted by loiseau at 4:01 PM on June 29, 2008

Oh - and the other thing is, six friggin hours in an airport is a really long time. Really long time. Wish-for-death long.
posted by loiseau at 4:02 PM on June 29, 2008

Six hours? I would suggest that he rent a car and drive to Seattle.

If he skips the YVR>SEA section of his itinerary, it's likely that the return portion of his reservation will be canceled, which is neither easy nor fun to rectify.
posted by kittyprecious at 4:10 PM on June 29, 2008

Response by poster: Ticket is already booked. It was cheap, and this was a spurr of the moment thing.
posted by Artw at 4:11 PM on June 29, 2008

six friggin hours in an airport is a really long time. Really long time. Wish-for-death long.

After flying across eight time zones, six hours is the perfect amount of time to find a quiet part of the airport and nap in order to be fresh for the reunion in Seattle.
posted by kittyprecious at 4:13 PM on June 29, 2008

not only will he have to go through security, he'll have to go through customs.
i'd probably opt for a nap and a book, as appealing as vancouver is.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:15 PM on June 29, 2008

I don't know what he finds "worth doing", although I'm really fond of the Iona Beach jetty on the northwest corner of Sea Island (airport island) which is a really neat long walk out into the sea (ignore the sewage lagoons on the other side) but you'd have to take a cab or rented car there, which seems like overkill.

There's probably a bus to a Hon's Wonton house in Richmond, if you want a classic local Chinese food experience.

The 98 B-line bus, an express route, takes half an hour to get downtown, if you want to wander around downtown Vancouver for an hour or transfer to the SkyTrain. Fare info on the Translink site. I wouldn't bet on any bus being exactly on time if it's rush hour, though.
posted by Listener at 4:32 PM on June 29, 2008

> If he skips the YVR>SEA section of his itinerary, it's likely that the return portion of his reservation will be canceled, which is neither easy nor fun to rectify.

But if you officially cancel part of the ticket in advance, it shouldn't cause a problem, and it can be confirmed at the time.
posted by Listener at 4:33 PM on June 29, 2008

If he skips the YVR>SEA section of his itinerary, it's likely that the return portion of his reservation will be canceled, which is neither easy nor fun to rectify.

How so? It's a two and half three hour drive max from Vancouver to Seattle. It'll take less than half the time to drive and he'll get some sightseeing done on the way. Unless he doesn't want to spend the extra fifty bucks on a car rental this would seem like a perfect idea.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:38 PM on June 29, 2008

...two and a half, hour drive...
posted by P.o.B. at 4:39 PM on June 29, 2008

you just have to tell the airline that you are skipping the flight and it should be ok, and seeing as how he is in the airport already, that should be easy.

Also depending on his airline or combination of airlines he might have to go through canada customs anyways.
posted by Iax at 4:48 PM on June 29, 2008

Response by poster: Second leg of the flight is "Operated by: AIR CANADA JAZZ " - does this have some horrible meaning?
posted by Artw at 5:41 PM on June 29, 2008

Everyone suggesting he break his itinerary in Vancouver is WRONG.

If you don't show up for any segment of a booked flight, the rest of your reservation is gone, and I assume that if the ticket was cheap, the flexibility of the ticket is either non-existent or vanishingly small. I mean, if you really want to know, call the airline, but DO NOT do this unless you know FOR SURE, FROM THE AIRLINE, that it's OK.

The sleepinginairports site has details on places to relax and nap in YVR (a 2006 "Golden Pillow" winner!) here.
posted by mdonley at 5:46 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

AC Jazz is the regional-service arm of Air Canada. Wikipedia page here.
posted by mdonley at 5:47 PM on June 29, 2008

Depending on what airline he is flying with for each leg, he may have to both clear Canada Customs & Immigration and pre-clear U.S. Customs & Immigration in Vancouver. If it's both, assume about 3 hours of free time out of the 6.

The time of day and weather in Vancouver will also play into it. If it's a hot sunny day, he could grab a cab to Maple Grove Pool to have a swim and lie around on the grass with a book. It's about 15 minutes away. An alternative is the Fairmont Hotel at the Vancouver Airport. They have a small pool/health club and I believe will allow access for a fee. It's right beside the International Arrivals area.

(very hot here today and hence the bias towards swimming)
posted by lunaazul at 5:53 PM on June 29, 2008

Best thing to do is for him to take a cab to the Flying Beaver restaurant, by the south terminal of YVR. Close enough so that he's not wasting time going back/forth, and not risking missing his flight due to security lines.

It's a restaurant by the water where you can watch all the float planes take off / land. Great place to chill out for a few hours on a sunny day.
posted by randomstriker at 5:55 PM on June 29, 2008

I was in YVR today. It's not the worst airport to hang around in. Decent restaurants. Air Canada Jazz is the smaller, regional part of the airline. Smaller planes for routes of a couple of hours or less. It's just a name thing, not to worry.

6 hours isn't enough time to see anything worthwhile in Vancouver when you're coming from the airport and dealing with what your brother is going to have to deal with. I've never flown international-YVR-US but he will most likely be kept in a transit area after going through US customs & immigrations in Vancouver (you almost always do this on the Canadian side). Someone might have better knowledge of how this works exactly - but he will have to collect his bag upon arrival at YVR and re-check it after dealing with the US people. So even if it was possible to leave the airport after getting his bag and before going through the US immigration people, he'd be humping it around with him.
posted by meerkatty at 5:57 PM on June 29, 2008

Jazz is just the cheap Air Canada option. Trying to think of a suitable analogy, but it just comes back to the cheap airline option. For what it's worth, I'll be flying Jazz Monday and July 14th. Short flights though, about an hour an d a half in length, so even if they're bad they'll be over quickly. Sorry, not much of an answer. I'd say worst case there may be no in-flight peanuts. Really worst case, no in-flight drinks. And to be honest, a glass of wine or two really helps me through a flight.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 5:58 PM on June 29, 2008

Here's the scoop on transiting passengers. It looks like there are two options, stuck inside or free form luggage hauling. The site has other info that he might find helpful as well.
posted by lunaazul at 6:20 PM on June 29, 2008

Just adding my 2 cents about skipping the last leg of the flight and driving to seattle:

If you think customs in the airport is bad, customs via car on a summer weekend is ridiculous. You could easily spend 2+ hours in the lineup to get across the border. Frankly, i'd much rather spend 6 hours in YVR than 5 hours driving. It's construction season, seattle traffic can be a bear, and that wait to get across the border is *miserable*. The only bathrooms can be a good 15 min walk away depending on where in line you are, there's nothing to occupy your time, and waiting like that eats gas like you wouldn't believe (which here in canada is almost up to $1.50 / a litre , which equals ~$5.67 CDN a gallon)
posted by cgg at 8:58 PM on June 29, 2008

A few months ago I had a flight at YVR and my friend had to drop me off remarkably early. I had about 4 hours to spare and it was fine. Tell him to bring a book and some music. I'm a local to the area and frequent YVR semi-frequently and I wasn't too bored.
posted by 913 at 11:51 PM on June 29, 2008

Can you get a flight from Vancouver to Seattle on the same plane on the cheap?

If so, go join him, sit together, and fly together. Someone mentioned it was two hours to the airport, so for a cheap flight and two hours of your time you get an extra six with him and he has some company.
posted by fluffycreature at 9:16 AM on June 30, 2008

Response by poster: UPDATE: My brother got put on a later Heathrow-Vancover flight (blame the M25 and extremely inflexible check-in staff) which was apparently quite stressful, but at least now he won't be stuck at Vancouver for quite so long. Thanks for your advice all!

(And yes, I will have to find an excuse to drive up there soon.)
posted by Artw at 9:25 AM on June 30, 2008

Response by poster: My brother has arrived safe and sound and full of praise for Canada and Canadians, despite only having seen the inside of an airplane and an airport. Apparently he hold up in a nice cafe and drank 4 americanos. Some flirting with a waitress may have been involved.
posted by Artw at 8:04 AM on July 1, 2008

Good to hear. To amend my previous comment, for anyone that finds this on Google, about service on the flight, on both flights I had, the flight attendants were helpful, and the usual snacks and beverages, alcoholic included, were available.

In fact, the second flight, the attendant was even helpful enough to serve me a gin and tonic as soon as we were up in the air before anyone else, but I was having some bad withdrawal shakes, and had requested something upon boarding, she was cute though too.

Stupid Boston Logan, no lounge to grab a drink once past security to prevent the withdrawal (if I go without a drink for about 10-12 hours, it's not fun, again no lectures anyone, I'm working on it) and just no way to kill the time until departure besides stare at the floor or depressing news.

Ottawa was much better, nice pub to kill some time in, everything you could want otherwise. Think that's the last time I'll fly from Boston.

Sorry for the thread-jack, too many issues with my last trip, need an outlet, but Jazz was fine. Just need to consider that being a smaller plane, the overhead compartments are somewhat useless, and the seats are a bit on the cattle-class side. But the original round-trip was relatively cheap, so can't complain. Just watch if you decide to shorten the return date, that cost me a few hundred extra, and that's for a 50 minute flight.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 8:06 PM on July 8, 2008

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