More changes are coming to Kamloops Airport in the wake of Air Canada’s announcement to suspend passenger flights.
Another route (Prince George) has been cancelled and two airlines say they plan to begin offering flights to Vancouver, filling the void left by Air Canada. One will start in February and another is planned for April.
Kamloops Airport manager Ed Ratuski noted the situation with airlines amid the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change.
“As we’ve noted all throughout COVID, the situation with the airline industry in general, nationally and internationally, is quite fluid,” Ratuski said, noting he is speaking with airlines on an ongoing basis. “A lot of these adjustments that we are seeing are reaction to the restrictions in travel requirements or additional travel requirements and travel advisories, advising people for essential travel only.”
On Tuesday, Central Mountain Air announced it will suspend its route between Kamloops and Prince George, beginning on Feb. 3. The airline was travelling to Prince George three times per week. Pre-pandemic, it flew that route five days per week. The earliest the flight would resume is April 5, the company stated in a press release.
Ratuski said passenger numbers did not sustain the route. Cancellation of the Kamloops route comes amid three routes axed by the airline, which blamed a lack of government support.
Central Mountain Air said it has continued to operate the routes, while sustaining losses and awaiting financial support that has not materialized.
“The federal government has been promising for almost a year that help is on the way to support these essential air services, but no such support has been received or clearly outlined,” company CEO Bob Cummings said in a press release.
Ratuski said he will be seeking to fill the void left by suspension of the Prince George flight, though it is contingent on it being profitable.
Lobbying efforts continue for support for the airline industry. Kamloops MP Cathy McLeod previously told this newspaper the federal government needs to do more to help.
“It’s been a long haul,” Ratuski said. “The discussions continue. But I think as communities, such as Kamloops, are more impacted by these kind of service reductions, I think that’s where the message will start to get back to the federal government to make sure supports are in place for companies providing these essential services can actually pull through out of the COVID environment.”
Meanwhile, B.C.-based Pacific Coastal Airlines said it will begin to offer daily flights (excluding Saturdays) between Kamloops and Vancouver, beginning on Feb. 9. Air Canada previously announced it would suspend its Vancouver route beginning on Jan. 23. Ratuski called the Pacific Coastal route “welcome” news for those who need to travel for essential purposes, such as medical appointments and work, to the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. He said the route offers convenient connections to Victoria. The airline previously flew out of Kamloops Airport about a decade ago.
“Their intent is to not just fill the gap but actually provide a long-term service here,” Ratuski said.
As it announced suspension of the Prince George route, Central Mountain Air also announced plans to reintroduce a Vancouver to Kamloops flight it has offered in the past, beginning in April.
It is unclear what the market will look like in three months, however, and Ratuski said it will depend on market conditions.
A WestJet flight between Kamloops and Calgary continues, though Ratuski noted he is concerned about talk of an interprovincial travel ban.
“We’re keeping a close eye,” he said.