Larry Berg announced his retirement today, though he will stay on into early next year while a successor is chosen following an international search.
Berg has been with the airport authority since it took control of the facility from Transport Canada in 1992.
The airport was an early adopter of the so-called airport improvement fee, a model eventually followed by airports across the country.
Passengers grumbled about the fee, but Vancouver's airport went on to diversify the services it offers — from well-known food outlets to shops and a notable collection of West Coast aboriginal art.
The airport has won numerous international awards, and the authority eventually created a subsidiary that provides airport management at 12 airports in five countries based on the Vancouver authority model.
The Vancouver airport is Canada's second busiest, after Toronto's airport, and served 17 million passengers in 2011 through 63 airlines.