Coronavirus: Air Canada to suspend passenger operations in Penticton

Penticton Regional Airport. Google Maps

Air travelers in the South Okanagan seeking flights to Vancouver will likely be booking out of Kelowna for the foreseeable future.

On Tuesday, Air Canada announced that beginning on Jan. 11, it will be suspending all passenger operations to Penticton until further notice.

The company cited very low demand arising from COVID-19 and ongoing travel restrictions.

Air Canada offers direct flights between Penticton Regional Airport (YYF) and Vancouver (YVR) and is the only commercial option for that route.

“It is increasingly difficult to continue to operate in this challenging environment, without specific financial support from governments, and with continued blanket 14-day quarantines restrictions for all travellers entering Canada,” Air Canada said in an email to Global News.

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The company continued, saying “Air Canada is still carrying less than eight percent of its normal passenger volumes due to factors beyond our control and with no horizon for recovery.

“This decision was not taken lightly, and we regret the significant impact on the affected communities.”

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Global News then contacted WestJet to see if would consider stepping in.

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WestJet also operates flights in Penticton, but only to Calgary.

In an email, the company said since the beginning of March, traffic has dropped significantly – a 75 per cent reduction – and that it has been forced to suspend the vast majority of its flying because of the ongoing pandemic.

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“Our schedule takes into account fluctuating demand trends that are being propelled by domestic and international travel restrictions, border closures and quarantine requirements globally,” said WestJet.

The Calgary-based airline said “despite these headwinds,” it is still committed to flying out of Penticton.

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The federal government called Tuesday’s news disappointing.

“The Government of Canada is disappointed by Air Canada’s decision to cancel more routes, especially regional routes,” said Kat Cuplinskas, press secretary for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

“It’s essential we maintain connections between people and our communities in a country as vast as Canada. We remain committed to supporting airlines and air sector workers during this unprecedented and difficult time for the industry.”

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Cuplinskas said since the beginning of the pandemic, the air sector has already received $1.4 billion in support through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.

“In the Fall Economic Statement, we announced over $1 billion in support for airports and smaller airlines,” said Cuplinskas. “Any further discussions about taxpayer support for the airlines will prioritize retaining and reinstating regional routes.”

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