Air Canada pulls out of Penticton due to pilot shortage, incurs community backlash

Click to play video: 'Penticton officials unhappy with Air Canada’s decision'
Penticton officials unhappy with Air Canada’s decision
Officials react to Air Canada pulling out of Penticton – Sep 14, 2023

Air Canada has opted to discontinue service to Penticton, B.C., starting next year and community leaders are ringing alarm bells, saying it’s going to have a detrimental effect on the local economy.

“Air Canada will be suspending its services at Penticton Airport effective mid-January, 2024,” a statement from Air Canada reads.

“We regret having to make this difficult decision as we are deeply aware of the impact in the local Penticton community. However, with the current regional pilot shortage, we have had to review the network schedule to ensure resources are deployed most efficiently and productively.”

The airline went on to say that the overall region will continue to be served at the Kelowna airport, which has a catchment area that compares to many other regional markets they serve.

NDP MP for South Okanagan West Kootenay Richard Cannings expressed his disapproval of the decision in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Wednesday.

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“This is a bad decision on so many levels—it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy when you reduce service, force more people to fly out of Kelowna, reduce service, repeat,” Cannings said.

Click to play video: 'Air Canada customers kicked off plane for refusing vomit-covered seat'
Air Canada customers kicked off plane for refusing vomit-covered seat

Penticton Mayor Julius Bloomfield later released a statement saying it was a disappointing turn of events considering the demand that’s continually demonstrated for the flight.

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“We have reached out to other airlines about opportunities and hope to meet in person at UBCM next week in Vancouver to discuss ideas,” Bloomfield said.

“We are excited for the opportunity to forge new partnerships that support the entire region.”

The Chamber of Commerce also weighed in, claiming it’s a decision that will harm the local economy.

“Air Canada has been a vital link connecting Penticton and the Okanagan Valley to the rest of Canada and the world,” Nicole Clark, president of the Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.

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“The decision to cease operations in this region threatens to have far-reaching implications, both in the economic impact as well as accessibility and community isolation.”

Penticton and the surrounding area, Clark said, relies heavily on tourism, with the South Okanagan being a premier wine and tourism destination.

As such, a loss in direct flight services will cause job losses for businesses, particularly in the areas of hospitality and tourism, which are the backbone of the economy.

Click to play video: 'Air Canada apologizes after customers kicked off plane over vomit-covered seats'
Air Canada apologizes after customers kicked off plane over vomit-covered seats

Clark also claimed the discontinuation of Air Canada flights creates accessibility challenges for residents, visitors and businesses alike.

“We implore Air Canada to reconsider this decision and engage in discussions with local authorities, businesses, and residents to explore alternative solutions to mitigate whatever factors led Air Canada to this decision,” said Michael Magnusson, the chamber’s executive director.

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“We also call upon Air Canada to uphold its legacy as a national carrier that values the connectivity of remote and rural communities, especially in these challenging times.”

In 2021, the federal government provided funding to Air Canada under the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility to assist the airline in facing recent and unprecedented challenges primarily caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clark said with this funding, which included a $4-billion repayable loan and an equity investment of $500 million in Class B voting shares, Air Canada was specifically required to resume service in 13 cities, including Penticton.


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