Notifications

WestJet cuts 88 flights a week between B.C. and Alberta

WestJet blames the downturn in the energy sector as it reduces flights between B.C. and Alberta

'We appreciate and recognize that this is unfortunate news for the citizens of all of these communities'

WestJet announced Monday it is cutting some service Edmonton and Calgary from 6 B.C. communities. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

WestJet is cutting or reducing flights from six B.C.cities  to Alberta's major airports by March 5. 

Travellers can blame the downturn in oil prices, said Westjet spokeswoman Lauren Stewart. 

"With the downturn in the economy, we are seeing less demand for travel to and from energy markets."

Flights slashed from 6 B.C. cities 

WestJet's announcement means a cut of 88 regularly scheduled flights a week between B.C. and Alberta.

The airline says it is completely canceling direct flights to Calgary from Terrace and Prince George, as well as all flights to Edmonton from Kamloops and Nanaimo. 

WestJet will also reduce flights between Penticton and Calgary and from Edmonton to Abbotsford. 

The airline says it will contact travellers with existing reservations to make new travel arrangements.

"We appreciate and recognize that this is unfortunate news for the citizens of all of these communities," said Stewart.

It's a far cry from the jubilation that greeted WestJet's expansion several years ago.  Back in April, 2014, WestJet staff at the Prince George airport dressed in western gear and cowboy hats to mark the launch of direct flights to Calgary.

Kamloops Airport lost its direct connection to Edmonton in the cuts, a move airport managing director Fred Legace called "not completely unexpected."

"We've been watching the numbers on that flight reduce over the last couple of months," Lagace told Radio West host Rebecca Zandbergen. "They won't fly airplanes that are next to empty very long."

Legace says that travellers going to Northern Alberta won't be the only ones impacted as Edmonton offered connections to places in Canada and Europe not served by Calgary or Vancouver.

No surprise

Today's news is also no surprise to business analysts. 

"When the economy slows down, things you do in good times, you can't keep doing," explained Charles Scott, who owns a consulting business in Prince George and lectures in business marketing at the University of Northern B.C.

Scott says the cuts will be tough on business people in smaller communities, who need to travel to Calgary to visit clients and used to be able to fly there early in the morning and return home the same evening. 

"If you don't have direct connections [to Calgary], it's significantly more than, 'Gosh, we lost the route.' Because you lost an entire day's productivity." 

Still, Scott says it's a simple matter of supply and demand.

"If you're not doing the numbers into various smaller communities, you're not going to be able to support the service."

Today's announcement from WestJet does have a silver lining for B.C. holidaymakers flying from Vancouver. WestJet is adding more flights from Vancouver to San Diego, Los Angeles, and Hawaii. 

WestJet cuts in B.C. 

Abbotsford

WestJet is reducing service from Abbotsford to Edmonton by 7 flights a week, starting March 5.

Nanaimo

WestJet will cancel daily service from Nanaimo to Edmonton on March 5.

Penticton

WestJet will cut more than half the flights from Penticton to Calgary as of February 15, 2016. Twice daily flights will be offered only three days a week, instead of every day.

Prince George

WestJet will cancel daily service between Prince George and Calgary and cut one daily flight to Vancouver,effective March 5, 2016. 

Terrace

 WestJet will cancel daily service from Terrace to Calgary as of March 5, 2016. 

Kamloops

WestJet will cancel daily service from Kamloops to Edmonton as of March 5, 2016. 


To hear the interview with Kamloops Airport managing director Fred Legace, click the audio labelled: Travellers in 6 B.C. cities face cuts and reductions in WestJet flights to Alberta

About the Author

Betsy Trumpener

Reporter-Editor, CBC News

Betsy Trumpener is an award-winning journalist and author. She's been covering the news in central and northern British Columbia for more than 15 years.

With files from Radio West

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.