Politicians voice disappointment as Air Canada suspends flights to and from Penticton

Dec 11, 2020

Photo: Start Here Okanagan

Cuts due to low demand, travel restrictions, lack of government support, airline says

Politicians in B.C.’s southern Interior say they’re disappointed by Air Canada‘s decision to suspend flights to and from Penticton Regional Airport beginning next month. The airline told CBC News that starting Jan. 11, flights to and from the Okanagan city will be suspended until further notice, due to low demand, a lack of financial support from different levels of government, and continued travel restrictions. It’s one of several cities across Canada affected by service suspensions. Air Canada says passenger levels are less than eight per cent what they were before COVID-19. The airline operates daily flights to and from Vancouver out of Penticton.

 Dan Ashton, B.C. MLA for Penticton, says disruption of Air Canada’s service will have “substantial” impact on travellers from southern Okanagan municipalities.

“Maintaining that flight service — even at a reduced level —  is very imperative for this area,” he told Sarah Penton, host of CBC’s Radio West.

Ashton says he expects many flyers from Penticton and surrounding areas will have to drive to Kelowna International Airport. He fears the flight suspension may indicate a slippery slope.

“Once you lose your service, it is always harder to get it back,” he said. “It’s more and more difficult to get flights in and out of some of these rural communities.”

Richard Cannings, MP for South Okanagan–West Kootenay, says the decision to suspend flights is “a bit of a surprise” knowing that Air Canada is negotiating with the federal government on bailout options. Cannings says flights are an essential service for smaller cities like Penticton.

“[Flights] are really important for people travelling not just to see their friends or go on holidays, but for businesspeople who live in the Okanagan [and] have to occasionally go to their head offices [located in other regions],” he said.

Air Canada is also temporarily halting routes that involve Charlottetown, Deer Lake, N.L., Fredericton, Halifax, Saint John and Sydney, N.S. In November, the airline announced it was set to cut services on 95 routes. CBC News has contacted Penticton Regional Airport for comment.

(Media Source: CBC News With files from Radio West and Yvette Brend)

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