Local and federal politicians woke up at the crack of dawn to greet early-morning airline passengers at Penticton Regional Airport (YYF) on Thursday morning, as they attempt to build a case to save the 6:00 a.m. flight to Vancouver.
As of May 1, Air Canada plans to drop the early-morning departure from Penticton and the 10:50 p.m. arrival from Vancouver.
That means the earliest a passenger can travel to Vancouver will be 9:35 a.m. and they must return to Penticton no later than 6:00 p.m.
The scheduling change comes as the airline upgrades the fleet on the remaining three daily flights to the larger Bombardier Q400 airplanes.
Air Canada says it will increase seat capacity by 17 per cent and improve reliability during the winter season. The airline also said the scheduling changes will still align with flight connections at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and same-day return travel on the route represented only a small percentage of travellers.
WATCH: (Aired March 7, 2019) Air Canada faces pushback over plans to cut popular Penticton-Vancouver early morning flight
However, representatives for area municipalities, as well as the MP for the South Okanagan-West Kootenay region, are concerned the removal of the early morning/late night flight will impact business and tourism.
MP Richard Cannings, Penticton mayor John Vassilaki and Summerland mayor Toni Boot handed out flyers on Thursday morning, encouraging travellers to fill out an online survey.
“It is going to have a huge effect,” said Vassilaki. “Especially with our convention businesses here in Penticton, where if they are not sure they can have regular flights in and out of Penticton, it’s going to be a big deal for big corporations to hold their conventions in Penticton,” he said. “So our economy is going to get a hit from it, for sure.”
Cannings said the flight schedule changes will disrupt business.
“It really throws a wrench into those people’s plans to live here in Penticton and occasionally have to fly to Vancouver for these meetings,” he said.
Cannings has met with Air Canada representatives at least five times, but said the airline has not committed to reconsidering the changes.
“If it discourages people from moving here, people like to live here for the lifestyle but they have to have that airport connection to get to meetings in Vancouver on time, and if they do go to Kelowna to fly out, it will effect this airport,” he said.
“It might be a self-fulfilling prophecy if Air Canada says Penticton is a minor airport — more people will be flying out of Kelowna and Penticton air service will drop.”
Boot said while Summerland residents aren’t as affected as their South Okanagan counterparts, she’s discouraged the airline would make the changes as Transport Canada invests in a multi-million dollar upgrade at YYF.
READ MORE: Penticton airport to get $5 million facelift
“A lot of work is going into this Penticton Regional Airport and it’s still one of the Transport Canada regional airports, which I’m understanding is quite unique in B.C.,” Boot said.
“I would hate to have all of that be set aside simply from this one decision, because if people can’t fly out of Penticton airport, they are going to go to the next closest airport — which is Kelowna.”
The online survey is available until April 6 and can be found here. Vassilaki said so far 1,700 people have filled it out.
In a statement issued to Global News on Thursday, Air Canada would only say that “we continue to review our schedule and are committed to working together with the community leaders to evaluate the feasibility of any adjustments.”
WATCH: (Aired March 2018) Navigation system improvements not included in multi-million Penticton airport expansion