It’s the tiny airport that could.
Now, however, there are four air carriers offering flights to and from the South Okanagan, including the latest arrival of Cascadia Air.
Cascadia Air is a small commuter airline that’s expanding to B.C.’s Interior. Its twin-engine aircraft are able to accommodate six passengers to allow for social distancing.
“We came from zero a year ago to four within a matter of eight months,” said Penticton mayor John Vassilaki. “And that’s a great thing for the City of Penticton.”
Cascadia Air favours smaller airports like Pitt Meadows, Abbotsford, Campbell River and Tofino.
According to the company’s website, from YYF in Penticton, travellers can choose to land in Abbotsford (YXX), Chilliwack (YCW), Pitt Meadows (YPK) and the south terminal in Vancouver (YVRS).
“If people are flying with us, they can expect an hour flight to Vancouver, a little bit lower altitudes than the bigger aircraft, so we are hoping that the scenery on the nice days is going to be a beautiful change,” said Cascadia Air president Jeremy Barrett.
“Things are certainly picking up again. Being laid off from Air Canada myself, and getting back in the air,” said Cascadia pilot Quinn Lattimer. “We as a flight crew are excited to offer a smaller service to smaller airports.”
Penticton’s airport has faced a tumultuous past, with Air Canada suspending its Penticton-Vancouver route in January due to low demand, travel restrictions and quarantine rules.
That left only WestJet offering flights to Calgary before Pacific Coastal Airlines landed to fill the void left by Canada’s largest airline. But after a federal bailout, Air Canada resumed its regional routes and air travellers now have four options to choose from.
“As we see what the demand is, we are going to be able to add or remove flights as needed,” said Barrett.
The city says regular flights are critical to ensuring the airport remains a viable option, and not only for visitors.
“We have big growth in remote workers who have recently moved to Penticton and are looking to host meetings in those major cities that these airlines connect to,” said Carly Lewis, Penticton’s economic development manager.
Also according to Lewis, pre-COVID, demand for air travel was increasing four to five per cent per year.
“COVID-19 put a little bit of a slowdown on that,” said Lewis, “but, now that we are starting to see more recreational travel and business travel, there is a huge demand in the community.”
Cascadia Air is offering daily 2 p.m. flights, with a one-way ticket costing around $200, including fees and taxes. Fees to land in Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Pitt Meadows are slightly higher.
For more about Cascadia Air, visit their website.