Kamloops Airport is advising local travellers with connecting flights through Calgary and Vancouver to check their bookings in the wake of Canada grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 airplanes and banning the jet from entering its airspace.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau made the announcement on Wednesday, acting on safety concerns arising from the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight on March 10 that killed all 157 people on board, including 18 Canadians.
Q-400 and Dash 8-300 aircraft fly in and out of Kamloops, travelling to Vancouver and Calgary.
“None of the flights operating in and out of Kamloops are impacted by this ban,” airport managing director Ed Ratuski said.
But problems may occur if the connecting flights were to be Max 8 planes.
He said both Air Canada and West Jet have committed to rebook passengers impacted by the ban, with both airlines offering full refunds and no rebooking fees for those flights.
Air Canada has 24 Max 8s in service in Canada and West Jet operates 13.
“A lot of them will get notifications via text or email that their flight has been impacted,” Ratuski said, adding that passengers should contact their airlines or travel agents.
One Kamloops travel agency told KTW on Wednesday that its agents were busy with calls regarding the planes, in addition to customers’ regular travel plans.
Ratuski advised travellers to stay abreast of any further developments and continue to check in with the airlines.
“It’s unfortunate this has happened, but the best we can do is help the passengers get redirected if they’re flying out of Kamloops,” said Ratuski, noting a few passengers at Kamloops Airport have already been accomodated by the airlines.
Garneau said the decision to ban Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 aircraft from arriving, departing or overflying Canadian airspace was made after a review of the evidence about the aircraft.
He said the decision was spurred by new data suggesting a similarity between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Oct. 29 crash of a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 plane in the Java Sea near Jakarta, Indonesia, that killed all 189 people on board.
"My departmental officials continue to monitor the situation and I will not hesitate to take swift action should we discover any additional safety issues,” Garneau said.
The minister has faced a dilemma over the aircraft that has been ordered out of the skies for the time being by the U.K., European Union, China, New Zealand and Australia, among other countries.
Canada and the United States had been notable holdouts as more and more jurisdictions have restricted the use of the planes.
Sunwing Airlines said late Tuesday that it was temporarily grounding its four Max 8 aircraft and the union representing Air Canada flight attendants voiced concerns about its members flying on the planes.
— with files from Canadian Press