Committee aims to land Alberta service

A revamped city committee to put Penticton Regional Airport on the map for more travellers is up and running.

Passengers disembark from an Air Canada Jazz de Havilland aircraft at Penticton Regional Airport. A new city committee is hoping to convince the airline to resume service to Alberta.

Passengers disembark from an Air Canada Jazz de Havilland aircraft at Penticton Regional Airport. A new city committee is hoping to convince the airline to resume service to Alberta.

A revamped city committee to put Penticton Regional Airport on the map for more travellers is up and running.

The 12-member group chaired by Judy Poole has put together a comprehensive survey and they hope to deliver the results to Air Canada executives as soon as next month.

“It’s just all about numbers to them (Air Canada) and we’re going to try and give them some sense of what we’re doing here and why we need these flights,” said Poole, who also chaired the previous committee. “Our thing is first and foremost to get people coming in and out of the airport; get some flights that we need to Calgary and Edmonton.”

The main objective of the survey is to find out who is flying out of Penticton and who is flying out of Kelowna and why.

“What we want to say to Air Canada is there’s a whole bunch of people using the airport in Kelowna and they’re not flying with you, and if we can bring them back here they will fly with you,” said the committee chair.

“I think what they care about is making money, and if we can show them that what we’re asking them to do will be profitable, I think we may get somewhere with it.

“When we talked to Air Canada before it’s been from the Penticton perspective, but there’s a heck of a lot growth in the rest of the South Okanagan.”

In particular she pointed to residential and other developments in Oliver and Osoyoos which bring in many people from Alberta on a regular basis.

Poole also believes by narrowing the committee’s focus it will be much more effective in accomplishing its objectives.

“We have really only two goals and that is to increase utilization of the airport — so market it to travellers — and increase flights in and out of the airport with the specific goal of trying to get flights to the east, either Calgary or Edmonton or both, that’s it,” she said. “This is not a committee that’s just going to sit around and talk about what they’re going to do; we’re going to do it.”

The current survey targets the business and industrial sectors of the communities but not the travelling public at this stage.

Air Canada at one time did offer service from Penticton to Alberta but suspended it due to low passenger volume in 2004.

Since then two other carriers, QuikAir and more recently Pacific Coastal, tried unsuccessfully to make a go of the route.

According to Poole, due to the current economic climate the committee feels it will have a much better chance of convincing Air Canada to resume flights east than attracting a new company.

“The first step is to talk to the guys that are already here, that’s certainly the simplest approach to give them first kick at the cat,” she said. “Given the world economies and the credit crunch, it would be difficult (to find another airline) but we will do whatever has to be done.”

The committee is scheduled to meet again Monday.