Air Canada says pilot shortages were what prompted the company to pull out of Penticton Airport.
In a statement issued to the Western News, Air Canada said it had to cut flights somewhere in their organization because of the staffing shortages.
“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 Canadian airline went on to say they will still be offering flights from Kelowna airport.
Air Canada had quietly made the decision to discontinue their currently daily service between Penticton and Vancouver effective Jan. 15, 2024.
South Okanagan MP Richard Cannings voiced his concern upon learning about Air Canada’s ‘bad’ decision.
“I learned from Air Canada executives yesterday that they will be pulling out of Penticton as of Jan. 15. This is a bad decision on so many levels,” said Cannings on Wednesday.
I learned from Air Canada executives yesterday that they will be pulling out of Penticton as of January 15. 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…
— Richard Cannings (@CanningsNDP) September 13, 2023
Penticton Mayor Julius Bloomfield also spoke to Air Canada’s departure.
“Certainly, we are disappointed with the decision by Air Canada to end their service in Penticton. But we know there is a demand for service from Penticton to Vancouver, as anyone who has caught the morning flight will tell you.
“We have reached out to other airlines about opportunities and hope to meet in person at UBCM next week in Vancouver to discuss ideas. We are excited for the opportunity to forge new partnerships that support the entire region.”
Pacific Coastal continues to offer flights Penticton to Vancouver six days a week.
The Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce is ‘deeply concerned’ and has sent a letter to both Air Canada and federal Minister of Transport Canada.
“Air Canada has been a vital link connecting Penticton and the Okanagan Valley to the rest of Canada and the world. 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,” said Nicole Clark, chamber president.
The Chamber in their letter urges Air Canada to reconsider.
“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.
The Chamber is also reminding Air Canada of the financial aid the Crown corporation was given during COVID that required the airline to reinstate service to Penticton and 12 other cities.
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. This funding included a $4 billion repayable loan and an equity investment of $500 million in Class B voting shares.
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