Photo: Government of British Columbia Flickr
The news that Air Canada will indefinitely suspend service to and from Penticton Airport effective January 11 is not welcome to South Okanagan – West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings.
“It’s very disappointing and a bit surprising to be honest. I was speaking to Air Canada about a week ago about the difficulties with regional airports in general, ”Cannings said, explaining that he understood the company was hoping for low-interest loans. and government support to survive.
Cannings also said he spoke to Transport Minister Marc Garneau and understood from the conversation that supports are still under negotiation.
“I guess they weren’t going fast enough,” Cannings said.
The airline announced its departure from YYF on Tuesday, citing “less than eight percent” of normal passenger volume. They have also withdrawn from several regional airports in the Maritimes.
Air Canada is currently the only commercial airline to provide service to Vancouver from Penticton.
Cannings has long been a champion of the Penticton Airport, protesting cuts to Air Canada’s routes in 2019 and emphasizing the importance of convenient flights to the Lower Mainland for business travelers and vacationers.
And, he adds, the regional airport is extremely important to the tourism industry in the South Okanagan, especially during normal years when conventions, festivals and sporting events regularly draw thousands of people. from outside the province and the country.
“These people want to go to the local airport. And that was one of the big issues we had regarding service before COVID, we wanted to have bigger planes and more services, we could attract bigger conferences, more events in the region, ”Says Cannings.
“What’s frustrating is that we have the traffic to provide good, regular service under normal circumstances… We were headed in the right direction. ”
Cannings spoke to other commercial and private airlines, as well as airport associations, looking for solutions. He sees Air Canada’s actions cutting off service as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“I tried to make Air Canada understand that it was a vicious cycle,” said Mr. Cannings, noting the fewer flight options with less convenient schedules than Air Canada has. recently set up. He no longer flies himself from Penticton to work on the flights offered, as no time is right to drive him to a connection from Vancouver to his Ottawa office in the evening.
“They’ve cut back on flights, and now they’re saying, ‘Well, there’s no need to leave Penticton because there are so few people flying out,’” Cannings said. “It’s frustrating that way. ”
Nonetheless, Cannings plans to continue advocating for regional airports, particularly once the pandemic is in the rearview mirror and airlines can begin to recover.
“I am hopeful things will change but it will take time. ”