Penticton Western News

Penticton not part of B.C. aviation strategy

B.C.’s just-announced aviation strategy is likely to have little direct effect on the Penticton Airport.

That’s according to airport manager David Allen, who said that nonetheless there will be indirect effects if the strategy is success in bringing more international tourists in and funnelling them through to markets in the Interior, rather than staying in the traditional markets of Vancouver and Victoria.

That’s even more true, he continued, with the extra Vancouver flight Air Canada has added to the Penticton schedule for 2013.

“But as far as the airport expecting to receive any money from the province, for any kind of upgrades to do this, no,” said Allen. “I don’t know what we would upgrade to. We need more flights and we have taken the initiative with Air Canada and come the spring, they will be providing a fourth flight here and I am also still pursuing Air Canada for a flight to Calgary.”

Opening and expanding international markets for B.C.’s goods and services is one of the pillars of the B.C. Jobs Plan.

The Connecting with the World Aviation Strategy for British Columbia aims to make the province more competitive in the global aviation market and attract a growing share of Asia-Pacific passenger and cargo business.

The B.C. government has invested $65.5 million to improve 36 airports throughout the province in the past decade, including significant projects in Prince George, Kamloops, Cranbrook, Campbell River, Comox, Castlegar, Kelowna, Abbotsford, including nearly $1 million in recently completed upgrades at Langley airport. However, Allen notes that these airports, unlike Penticton, have been released from the federal government and are now owned by communities or other groups.

Penticton airport is still owned and operated by the federal government.

“While much of our aviation growth will occur through YVR and the Lower Mainland, every community in B.C. will benefit from new job opportunities, expanded air services and increased access to international markets as we build our capacity as a global aviation hub,” said Mary Polak, minister of transportation in a press release.

Allen sees the strategy as an initiative from B.C. to try to get some increased aviation activity into the province.

“People who get off the plane in Vancouver to come to Penticton, by all means, we should take part in that,” said Allen. “We can only benefit from it. Just because they aren’t throwing money at the Penticton airport, doesn’t mean we can’t handle tourists coming here and with an extra flight at noon time all through the summer, there is more that ample opportunity for tourists to come through to Penticton and spend dollars here. We know we have the draw here.”

The additional new daily Vancouver to Penticton is scheduled to start May 1, 2013.

“Air Canada has responded to the opportunity to address Penticton’s challenges with respect to the lack of adequate seat capacity and flight frequency to Vancouver.” said Mayor Dan Ashton. “There is a definite need for this service as well as the need for direct service to Alberta, the top two destinations of local passengers.”

Penticton remains in the running as a possible expansion site for WestJet as it prepares to launch a new regional carrier, called Encore. The announcement on what cities have landed that is expected to come on Jan. 21. Allen is still hoping that Air Canada, through its regional carrier Jazz, might consider adding a Calgary flight to the schedule, starting with a smaller plane to prove the concept.

“They have made tremendous improvements in Air Canada with their networking out of Calgary. Part of their structure in the west is to realign some of their carriers to provide a feed to that network,” said Allen, noting that Air Canada has a flight in and out of Cranbrook that is serviced with a 19-seat aircraft.

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