British Columbia

Air Canada suspends flights out of Prince Rupert and Kamloops

The move is part of the company's restructuring under its COVID-19 Mitigation and Recovery Plan, which will reduce "approximately 25 per cent of its planned capacity for … the first quarter of 2021," a statement Wednesday morning said. 

Around 1,700 employees will be affected across Canada for the first quarter of 2021, airline says

Air Canada is one of the biggest companies in Canada and has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Air Canada has announced it will be cutting a number of its routes starting Jan. 23. That includes all flights out of the B.C. cities of Prince Rupert and Kamloops. 

The move is part of the company's restructuring under its COVID-19 Mitigation and Recovery Plan, which will reduce "approximately 25 per cent of its planned capacity for … the first quarter of 2021," a statement Wednesday morning said. 

As a result of these system-wide changes, 1,700 employees across the country will be affected, in addition to over 200 employees at its Express carriers. The airline says it is "working with its unions on mitigation programs."

Other routes affected are those out of Yellowknife, Fredericton and Newfoundland locations.

Kamloops mayor 'beyond disappointed'

Ed Ratuski, the managing director at the Kamloops Airport, said he received an email Monday morning about the cancellations and he expects them to remain in effect through March.

"It's definitely going to extend our recovery from COVID," he said. "Our concern is ... what kind of impact this reduction in service will have on workers who have to travel by air to support their families locally." 

Ratuski says he understands the "uncomfortable decisions" Air Canada has made, noting the airport has seen an 85 per cent reduction in service for this time of year. 

Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian says he's "beyond disappointed" to see the the city's only direct air connection to Vancouver cancelled. 

"When you have places like the B.C. Lottery Corporation that have their provincial headquarters in Kamloops, it's just unfathomable that you would have no air access for them to shuffle employees back and forth," he said.

Christian said city staff will be pursuing discussions with Pacific Coastal Airlines, Central Mountain Air and WestJet to see if they can fill the flight gap.

Air travel 'vital' to Prince Rupert

Rosa Miller, corporate administrator for the City of Prince Rupert, said the city is disappointed with the suspensions.

There are "significant growth opportunities" in what is the third largest port in Canada, she said, so disruptions to travel mean "disruption toward growing Canada's global trade interests" and the province's economic recovery.

Michelle Boomars-MacNeil, president of the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce, said discussions began Wednesday morning to try and convince Air Canada to reverse its decision while there is still time. 

"It is absolutely a vital connection for our community," she said. "I don't think it's acceptable that our business community and ... citizens need to be travelling the highway to an airport almost two hours away, especially during winter.

Air Canada says it will contact customers who have been affected by the cancellations and they will be "offered options, including refunds for eligible customers and alternative routings where available."

With files from Daybreak Kamloops and Daybreak North

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