The shortened runway at Penticton’s airport is causing frustration for South Okanagan travellers.
The airport’s 6,000-foot runway was shortened earlier this year by approximately 470 feet due to an obstruction that’s been in place for years.
The obstruction is an exhaust system at a nearby mill, located just north of the airport.
The exhaust system was flagged during an audit, and resulted in the runway being shortened. In turn, some flights have been redirected or were turned around and were rescheduled.
The airport is operated by Transport Canada, which said the shortened runway is impacting certain navigational aids, especially at night and during periods of poor weather.
Nav Canada operates Canada’s civil air navigation service.
In an email to Global News, Transport Canada said “the instrument approach is presently not authorized by Nav Canada due to the displaced (ceiling) threshold, as it is designed around the aiming point for the full length of the runway.”
Transport Canada added it is continuing “to review several long-term options regarding the obstacle issue, and are unable to provide a timeframe for implementation at this time.”
This week, WestJet said a flight into Penticton on Sunday was turned back due to weather, and that all travellers were re-accommodated on Monday.
Adding that the issue is out of WestJet’s control, the company said “while we understand this situation is challenging, WestJet operates over 700 flights a day and even the smallest scheduling change can impact operations across our network.”
A Penticton couple says a WestJet evening flight from Calgary to Penticton on Sept. 27 was turned around.
In an email, Stacey Beaudry said her husband was on that flight, and that the overnight delay cost the family $300 in hotel and food costs. She said WestJet flew the affected travellers into Kelowna, where she had to drive to pick him up.
Jody Stone of Okanagan Falls says she’ll never fly out of Penticton again following flight delays to and from London, Ont.
Stone says her flight to London was delayed, stating she was supposed to land at 3 p.m., but didn’t arrive until midnight.
Then on the return leg, another delay occurred, this one overnight.
Stone said her Sunday flight into Penticton went through Calgary, and featured an estimated arrival of 9:16 p.m. However, she said when the plane approached Penticton, it tried landing, but didn’t, resulting in a return to Calgary.
Stone said WestJet blamed the failure to land on weather, adding the return flight landed Monday morning around 9 a.m.
“There was no sorry (from WestJet), there were no apologies; they were actually quite rude at the service desk in saying it was weather-related,” Stone told Global News after having to overnight in Calgary.
Stone said they were directed to a hotel where they would receive a discount, which she says didn’t happen, adding “so people decided to just sleep at the airport because they’ve already gone through so much expense.”
Stone said this isn’t the first time she’s experienced flight delays in Penticton. In fact, she said she’s frustrated and had enough, and now plans on flying out of Kelowna.
Further, Stone said she moved to the Okanagan from Terrace, which she claims has worse weather airport-wise, but doesn’t have the amount of flight delays that Penticton does.
“It’s easier for me to drive to Kelowna and have the confidence that I’m going to get there in time,” said Stone.
In related news, WestJet noted that its winter schedule for service between Penticton and Calgary came into effect on Monday. Service between the two cities moves from twice a day to once a day until April 25.
Flights from Calgary to Penticton leave at 2:25 p.m. and arrive at 2:42 p.m., with flights from Penticton to Calgary leaving at 3:15 p.m., and arriving at 5:23 p.m.