Penticton’s mayor is calling Air Canada’s revised flight schedule announcement Thursday a “small concession”, but a concession nonetheless.
“You know, we didn’t get exactly what we wanted, but at least they (Air Canada) didn’t push us aside, because if it was 20 years ago they wouldn’t have paid any attention to us,” said John Vassilaki, who credited the efforts of all levels of local government representatives for banding together on the matter. “I’m really thankful Air Canada at least listened to what we had to say and gave us that small concession.”
The concession he is referring to is the announcement from Serge Corbeil, Air Canada’s Director, Government Relations that previously announced changes to the Penticton’s airport schedule will be slightly adjusted.
Instead of the earliest flight out of Penticton being slated for 9:45 a.m. and returning from Vancouver at 6.pm., Corbeil said starting June 1 the first flight leaving Penticton Regional Airport would be at 8:15 a.m. and the return flight out of Vancouver International Airport would be at 6:35 p.m.
“We did get a 45-minute reprieve and that’s going to help a little bit, and the other thing they made clear to us is that the majority of connections, the early flight and the late flight, will still be met,” said Vassilaki. “So there’s going to be very little loss on making connections to various parts of the world because of the changes.”
The original schedule changes, which were announced in February, resulted in an outcry from passengers and local government officials. This prompted a city-launched survey filled out by about 2,000 people in the region in relation to their travel needs when flying in and out of Penticton. The original flight times were 6 a.m. out of Penticton, landing here at 11 p.m.
Meanwhile, Corbeil explained that after Air Canada heard of the complaints from the region about the changes, the airline made a commitment revisit the decision.
“Overall, I think it’s a compromise that works, when we looked at the first change from a 6 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. the community told us there was a big gap,” he said. “There was a fairly significant change in the schedule and, in working collectively, we were able to look at that without impacting the rest of our network.
“I think we’re able to move in a direction that the city and the some of the stakeholders we’ve been talking to in the region wanted us to move to.”
As well, in February the airline also said with the introduction of the larger, faster and more modern Q400 aircraft at the airport, it would be dropping one of its four Penticton spring/summer flights.
“I’ve also got to let people know that there is another option, Westjet has two other flights out Penticton – one in the morning and one in the afternoon to Calgary – so now we have five flights a day leaving Penticton,” said Vassilaki. “Air Canada will also have larger planes and will be carrying 80 people instead of 50, so even with one less flight we will have 17 per cent more seats going out on Air Canada everyday.”
Corbeil added it is too early yet to say what the fall and winter schedules for Air Canada will be.