Pacific Coastal Airlines announced on Wednesday that the airline will be adding four additional morning flights between Vancouver and Penticton.
Pacific Coastal said the decision follows the airlines’ recent growth in the Thompson-Okanagan region, and the recent launch of two new routes in the area: Nanaimo to Kelowna and Victoria to Kamloops.
In addition, they’ve significantly increased their capacity to an existing Victoria to Kelowna service.
“We’re highly committed to serving the Okanagan and it’s a vital part of our network,” said Pacific Coastal Airlines commercial planning director Berkan Kucukkatipoglu.
Pacific Coastal currently offers direct service between Vancouver and Penticton from Sunday to Friday.
The additional morning flights will run from Jan 4 to Apr 26, 2024, on Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday. Although the flights are only scheduled for the winter season, Pacific Coastal says there could be an opportunity for the service to continue.
“We’re constantly monitoring the demand and flight performance in our markets along with our resource levels like aircraft & crew availability,” said Kucukkatipoglu.
“Our intention is to maintain these flights and grow our capacity to Penticton should the demand be there and our resource levels permit.”
Penticton officials unhappy with Air Canada’s decision
The Penticton Airport does have a demand for flights to and from Vancouver, as Air Canada recently announced that it will be suspending its services to Penticton as of mid-January next year.
“We regret having to make this difficult decision as we are deeply aware of the impact in the local Penticton community,” a statement from Air Canada read back in September.
“However, with the current regional pilot shortage, we have had to review the network schedule to ensure resources are deployed most efficiently and productively.”
The airline added that the overall region will continue to be served at the Kelowna airport, which has a catchment area that compares to many other regional markets they serve.
The decision triggered a backlash from local leaders.
“As much as Air Canada thought that we would go to Kelowna to catch a flight down to Vancouver that may not be the case. It’s still an extra hour and a half drive,” said Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce executive director Michael Magnusson.
“Whereas leaving from your Regional Airport, especially for those of us living in Penticton, we can catch a taxi and grab a flight down there in the morning now and then come back either in the afternoon or a day or two later.”
“Certainly, there will be a shift in air service to Penticton in January, and through our discussions with the community leaders we’ve identified there was a need for a morning service,” said Kucukkatipoglu.
“We’re happy to be in a situation to have the resources to be able to add the extra flights.”
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According to the Chamber, businesses rely on tourists being able to visit, and having direct access to flights between here and Vancouver is needed.
“I think that if Pacific Coastal didn’t take advantage of this opportunity, it would have been a hardship for Penticton residents,” said Magnusson.
“It’s hugely important, especially for those coming to visit us. We have Ironman every year, we have Gran Fondo, and we have fantastic festivals, especially throughout the summer. People need a way to get to us and the more convenient we can make it for visitors, the more will show up. So, for Pacific Coastal to step up and fill that gap fill that for us is fantastic.”
Kucukkatipoglu said the response to the additional flights has been ‘extremely positive’ so far, adding the airline has received support from key tourism and business groups in Penticton as well as their customers.
“We’re absolutely delighted that Pacific Coastal has taken the opportunity to add four more flights per week into Penticton to Vancouver. We’re very excited about this new opportunity in addition to the flights are already offering,” said Travel Penticton executive director Thom Tischik in a statement.
“We find that working with Pacific Coastal has been absolutely a pleasure and we’re looking forward to offering more flights for our business travellers, and for also our residents both in Penticton and regionally to be able to connect with national and international flights maybe on a little bit easier basis.”
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