Pacific Coastal says it has no plans to cancel the Bella Coola – Anahim Lake bus run on bad weather days, president Quentin Smith confirmed today (Sept.28).
“The service is going to continue as the status quo,” Smith said. ” We will still be providing bus service to Anahim Lake on bad weather days.”
Smith said there was never a plan to cut the service entirely, but that the company had wanted to invest in a new bus to deal with the road travel. They had started looking for a replacement pre-COVID, but due to the effects of the pandemic they aren’t planning make the investment this year.
“That road requires a very robust bus,” Smith explained. “Replacement costs for a new bus were estimated at about 180K for a custom built vehicle, but with everything going on it’s hard to invest in a new bus.”
The present bus has been in service for several years and Smith says there is nothing wrong with it; it continues to pass commercial inspections and has not presented them with any problems. Smith said there are other challenges to consider as well, one of them being the limitations on the airport in Anahim Lake regarding passenger load during take off and landing.
“We could possibly end up in a situation where we can’t carry the same amount of passengers out of Anahim Lake because of the airport restrictions and the weather,” he said. “In the winter with the cooler weather it’s not as bad, but it is a challenge.”
Unbeknownst to many passengers, warmer weather can be just as challenging as the dreaded “bus day.” Hot air is less dense than cold air, meaning aircraft require more engine power to generate the same thrust and lift as they would in cooler climes. This situation is exacerbated when you factor in short runways and smaller planes, something Pacific Coastal has to deal with in both Anahim Lake and Bella Coola airports.
“We want to continue to maintain the service,” said Smith. “When we approached the stakeholders they all have been really good in supporting us.”
Pacific Coastal cancelled flights in and out of Bella Coola in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and only resumed a three day a week service in July. The company plans to increase that to four days per week as of Oct. 4 with flights on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.