Hoping to keep flights

Area politicians were at Penticton Regional Airport early Thursday morning, encouraging passengers to complete an online survey that deals with proposed service cuts by Air Canada. From left are South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings, Summerland Mayor Toni Boot and Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki.

Travellers at Penticton’s airport on Thursday were surprised to be greeted in the lobby by their member of Parliament and two Valley mayors.

But at 4:45 a.m., when everyone’s still half asleep and dying for that first cup of coffee, perhaps they didn’t notice who they were speaking with.

In an effort to provide more statistical data to Air Canada — which will be eliminating its 6 a.m. departure and 11 a.m. arrival flights, beginning April 6 — politicians were handing passengers leaflets encouraging them to complete an online survey.

“About half of the people we spoke with have already filled out the survey,” said South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings, who was joined by Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki and Summerland Mayor Toni Boot.

“The other half had no idea and they were quite shocked as to how it’s going to affect them. There were three people going to the Yukon this morning and another to New Brunswick. Without this flight, they’d have to leave a day earlier or drive to Kelowna.”

Cannings has met with Air Canada officials five times.

When asked, he agrees the airline is a corporation, entitled to make a profit.

“I don’t think they’ve looked into the details for this,” Cannings said. “Penticton, I’m sure, is pretty small potatoes for them. One of the reasons they like to fly into Penticton is to keep people on Air Canada flights once they arrive in Vancouver. It’s clear they’ve looked at only one aspect, the connections, not the number of people going to Vancouver for business meetings. That’s critical for a lot of people here.”

Cannings said he will be affected on his return trips to Ottawa. Currently, he can arrive in Ottawa by 4:30 p.m. ET, but with a later flight he won’t touch ground until 11 p.m.

Summer tourism is a concern, but not on the same level because tourists have more flexibility in their schedules. It’s the business traveller he’s most concerned for.

“If you’re going to Vancouver for a day or two days of meetings, you can take the early flight and leave later. Without the later flight now, it means you will have to bail by 3 p.m. on your meeting or spend the extra night.”

Anyone who hasn’t done so already is invited to visit shapeyourcitypenticton.ca/pentictonairport before April 6 to complete an online survey. The results will be forwarded to Air Canada.