Travellers at the Penticton airport getting on the 6 a.m. Air Canada flight on Thursday lamented the decision the company has made to cancel the early morning and late night service.
John Nagy said he will lose almost a full day of visiting his family every time he travels back east if Air Canada moves forward with eliminating the early morning Vancouver departure (6 a.m.) and late night Penticton arrival (10:50 p.m.) on May 1 as they have planned.
“For me, if we don’t have a 6 a.m. flight, I don’t get into Montreal until 12 hours later. It burns a whole day because I take the one o’clock flight coming back and it coincides with the last flight into Penticton at 10:50 p.m.,” said Nagy. “I was very upset when I heard about this.”
While the city said 1,700 people have filled out their survey regarding the loss of the flights and the impact to residents — the analysis of which they plan to turn over to Air Canada — Nagy wasn’t one of them. He said he had not heard about it, but now would be filling it out to let them know of the disruption it causes.
Phil Quaedblieg also said he just heard about the survey and plans on completing it right away. He was travelling from Oliver to Vancouver on Thursday morning when elected officials handing out pamphlets about the survey at www.shapeyourcitypenticton.ca/penticton-airport at the Air Canada gate made him aware of it.
“I probably use this early morning flight twice a month for business flying into Vancouver. If they cancel, I will probably have to travel out of Kelowna. It is either that, or fly in the evening before, but then I have to stay in Vancouver in a hotel so that becomes a major expense,” he said.
Air Canada Express will change their service to the larger Q400 plane which they said has improved reliability during periods of inclement weather, particularly during the winter months. In doing so, they will scale back to three daily flights — the 6 a.m. departure from Penticton to Vancouver will be removed from the schedule as is the 10:50 p.m. arrival to Penticton from Vancouver.
South Okanagan West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings, along with the mayors of Penticton and Summerland were at the airport on Thursday morning to raise awareness of the survey with the Air Canada 6 a.m. flight users. He said it is an essential flight to make connections in Vancouver and a “very important issue for people in the South Okanagan-Similkameen.”
“Or, they drive to Kelowna which is one of the things I am concerned about. It will drive people out of the Penticton airport and that will have a real impact on our service here,” he said, adding people can email him their concerns to be passed on or Air Canada directly. “It is such a critical flight for so many people that we think Air Canada should reconsider it, or if they have to compromise and fly in a plane early at 7 a.m. so people can get to Vancouver before 9 a.m.”
City of Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki said he has heard from both the local business community and general users of the early morning Air Canada flights. Besides those flying out for business, he said Penticton could suffer a hit to tourism as well as those travelling to Penticton for conventions because they may reconsider because of the inconvenience and added expense of an extra accommodation night. He continues to encourage everyone in the region to fill out the online survey, which was seeing one person per minute traffic on the website when they first introduced it. He is hopeful for 3,000 people to complete the survey by their deadline of April 6.
Elected officials and stakeholders met with Air Canada recently, Vassilaki said he took away from that meeting that they were not going to reconsider the cancellation of those two flights from the schedule but would weight other options.
“We gave them a few suggestions such as if they were not going to continue with the flights we have now, if they could leave Vancouver much earlier and have a flight arrive in Penticton by say 7 a.m. and depart by 7:30 a.m. That way people still have time to go to Vancouver for their meetings or whatever it is. The same thing in the evening, have a 9 p.m. flight so we still have that connection with Vancouver. It sounded promising, but you can never tell,” said Vassilaki.
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