Air Canada will cease all flights at the Kamloops Airport (YKA) amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Canada’s largest airline provides flights between Kamloops and Vancouver and Kamloops and Calgary, but will shut down its Calgary flights with YKA from March 22 to April 30 and its Vancouver flights from April 1 to April 30.
Kamloops Airport manager Ed Ratuski said the announcement came on Wednesday night and is being done due to the economic impacts of the pandemic.
“It’s a temporary suspension and it’s not specific to Kamloops only. This is nationwide across the Air Canada network,” Ratuski said.
As of Wednesday, Air Canada had suspended 42 domestic routes across the country.
WestJet will continue to operate its Kamloops to Calgary flights, Ratuski said, but will reduce service temporarily from three times a day to one flight per day for the month of April.
“We’ll follow it month by month as we go along,” Ratuski said, noting airlines have only forecast the changes a month in advance.
Ratuski said he has yet to hear from Coastal Mountain Air regarding any impacts on its service to and from YKA.
Kamloops Airport will remain open during the pandemic, as other services, including medivac flights and cargo aircraft flights, are needed. The airport is also the main base of operation for the BC Wildfire Management Service.
“The airport stays fully operational. We have an obligation to keep the airport in a safe and secure operating environment,” Ratuski said.
He said layoffs are underway due to the reduced service, but he he did not have specific numbers as those are made by the specific companies operating out of the airport.
The BG Grill in the airport will also be scaling back, but Ratuski said he wants to make sure passengers still have access to food and beverage services regardless of how few passengers there are moving forward.
Passenger numbers at YKA have decreased dramatically in the wake of COVID-19.
In a normal year, Ratuski said, January through March is peak season at YKA, with flights averaging in the 90 per cent capacity range. But in mid-March, with social-distancing measures intensifying to respond to the pandemic, the airport is now seeing an average capacity of about 30 per cent.
“If that,” Ratuski said.
As for anyone who may have booked a now cancelled flight out of YKA for April, Ratuski advised people to be patient and make adjustments with their respective airlines, preferably online.
“We know it’s a challenge for travellers right now trying to get through to the airlines,” Ratuski said, noting YKA has been fielding many calls from passengers regarding the cancellations.