I counted myself fortunate my name found its way onto the guest list of a travel industry business luncheon hosted by Delta Airlines and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and EIA (Edmonton International Airport) held at the Renaissance Edmonton Airport Hotel and had jumped at the opportunity for a number of reasons including enjoying a free meal on a Friday afternoon at a luxury hotel and a behind-the-scenes tour of airport facilities offered to our small group.

I’d toured this Renaissance, the only one of the brand in the world connected to an airport terminal, shortly after it’s grand opening in August 2014 (more here) and like its unique décor and light, contemporary colour schemes.

Airport staff at the luncheon were in high spirits as days earlier EIA’s 2015 passenger statistics were released showing it was the second busiest calendar year ever with almost 8 million passengers transiting the airport. While U.S. passenger numbers were down due to the dropping Canadian Dollar international traffic soared almost 20% thanks in part to KLM’s inauguration of non-stop service between Edmonton and Amsterdam, the airline’s main hub and a major international airport serving almost 55 million passengers in 2014.  Sales staff representing Delta, KLM, Air France and Alitalia were joined by EIA airline station managers for a brief product update before an escorted tour lead by EIA executives.

After a security check the central baggage handling facility was the first stop and having toured it previously recalled how sprawling yet cramped a space this is with a canopy of overhead conveyer belts directing checked bags with an automated efficiency monitored by computers.

EIA screens

We watched as bags were guided on to different whirring belts or through a mini-van sized X-ray machine for a closer look at the contents. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) staff are on hand to manually inspect suspect bags if necessary.

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The facility was completed in 2012 as part of the last major airport expansion and doubled EIA’s baggage handling capacity.

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It was interesting to watch the checked bags complete their own journey but all the while I was trying not to smile like a Cheshire cat as a confirmed carry-on only passenger who bypasses all this machinery.

The Central Tower, which opened in 2013, is a ten storey office building topped with an air traffic control tower that replaced the airport’s original tower on the right of this photo which taken from the EIA eighth floor boardroom. Notice the Renaissance Edmonton Airport Hotel in the background.

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The view to the south on a sunny January afternoon was equally as memorable.

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The Central Tower was designed to be a distinctive local architectural landmark with its undulating sculpted steel exterior mimicking wind driven prairie snow drifts but the shape allows for catching the most winter sun while shading the interior from long sunny summer days.  EIA is pursuing LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver Certification for the new Central Tower.

My thanks to the EIA and KLM, Delta, Alitalia and Air France staff for hosting the luncheon which allowed this incorrigible traveller a brief afternoon escape with neither boarding pass nor baggage.

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