How often have you arrived at an airport terminal (perhaps via a connecting flight) and struggled to locate a boarding gate or the baggage claim area? This is a common challenge for thousands of passengers every day. British Columbia has a great solution, and let’s say it comes in the form of green.

Vancouver International Airport (often also called YVR for its three-letter IATA code) is 12 km (7.5 mi) south of downtown Vancouver on Sea Island and is part of the suburban city of Richmond. It is the main airport serving its namesake city of Vancouver, located on Sea Island within the City of Richmond, which is south of Vancouver. As Canada’s second-busiest airport, YYR handles more than 25 million passengers annually. The busy airport connects Canada’s west coast to major cities on the country’s east coast. Internationally, the airport also sees multiple international daily flights to Asia, Oceania, and Europe.

The airport has a three-terminal layout consisting of the following:

  • The Domestic terminal is located in the southern part of the main terminal building.
  • International Terminal, on the northern part of the main terminal building.
  • South Terminal is located on the southern side of the airport and about a 10-minute- drive from other terminals. This area handles short-distance flights, and just about a 2-minute walk away, you’ll find two piers on the Fraser River for seaplane operations.

Getting around this complex terminal layout can be challenging for passengers who are unfamiliar with the airport. This is where the YVR Green Coat Volunteers step in to help.

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Here come the Green Coats

The Green Coats are a hardworking group of friendly volunteers located throughout the airport to provide a welcoming face, answer any questions, and get passengers moving in the right direction. This fantastic group of customer service ambassadors was founded in 1989 and has served passengers ever since.

The onset of the Covid pandemic forced the program on hold for a year. However, the team resumed service in March 2021, and has since helped passengers navigate YVR’s complex layout despite several challenges, including new COVID-19 variants and steadily increasing passenger numbers.

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A day in the life of an airport volunteer

YYR’s Green Coat storybook offers examples of how these volunteers help their passengers in many ways. The Green Coat literature provides a great look at volunteer Susan Rance’s service on a particular day when she was stationed at a counter. A passenger who didn’t speak much English approached her after missing an outbound flight. Despite the language barrier, Susan was able to connect with the passenger’s daughter over the phone eventually and then associated the passenger with her airline for rebooking.

Going beyond her area of responsibility, Susan took the hungry and frustrated woman to a popular local restaurant while another YVR employee who heard Susan’s story in the line graciously paid for the meal. To provide uplifting company, Susan stayed beyond her scheduled shift time to accompany the passenger while she ate. The limited conversation caused Susan to creatively think of showing the passenger cute animal videos to perk up her spirits. How often do you hear about this at a large international airport?

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What does it take to be a Green Coat?

Airport officials have been actively recruiting Green Coat volunteers and plan to continue for the next few months. Anyone interested must complete the online application process and have the right skills. While airport knowledge is an asset, it is not required; great candidates include people with the following attributes:

• Friendly, outgoing personality;

• Strong teamwork orientation;

• Ability to listen, understand and respond;

• Motivated to achieve high standards of service;

• Excellent problem-resolution skills;

• Customer service experience;

• Computer skills; able to navigate the Internet;

• Language skills.

Volunteers must commit to a minimum of one 4-hour shift each week on a designated day and time. Shift times are 06:00 – 10:00; 10:00 – 14:00; 14:00 – 18:00; and 18:00 – 22:00.

Are you up to the challenge of being a Green Coat? If you live in the Vancouver area, you may apply for this special particular airport personnel who make passengers’ travel experience much more enjoyable. If you cannot become a volunteer for one reason or another, please make sure to thank a Green Coat next time you travel through YYR. A simple gratitude smile may be all needed to express your sincere appreciation.


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