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Air Canada limits Castlegar schedule increase

After announcing that it would increase weekly flights at the West Kootenay Regional Airport from four per week to six starting today, Air Canada has decided to only offer five per week.

Flights will arrive from and depart to Vancouver on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Airport manager Maciej Habrych explained to Castlegar city council this week that the airline scaled its plans back after the city issued a news release about the increase to six flights.

“The industry won’t support the sixth flight at the moment,” he said, adding that they met with Air Canada executives, who were told that the schedule will be revised month-to-month, as the Omicron variant makes long-term planning difficult.

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Although Air Canada’s website shows that it is also offering direct flights to Calgary beginning May 1, Habrych said there is no guarantee that those flights will actually exist.

“If there is high demand, they will bring it on board, but if not, they will scale it back without making an announcement,” he said. “It’s quite typical of airlines to probe the market to see what the demand is and then make decision. I would caution about thinking that far ahead.

“Everyone at this table gets the backlash when it doesn’t happen,” councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff said. “It’s not conducive to a good relationship.”

Habrych agreed. He said during their meeting they asked Air Canada to let them know if they are confident about any changes in routes.

Meanwhile, due to weather only eight of 20 scheduled flights made it in to Castlegar in January. “I see now what Cancelgar really means,” quipped Habrych, who started on the job last fall.

The city recently submitted a proposal to Nav Canada and Transport Canada to improve the airport’s reliability, which is notoriously low in the winter due to the mountainous terrain.

Council also awarded a contract this week to buy a new snow plow for the airport at a cost of $437,718. Of that total, $399,000 will be covered through an airport capital assistance program grant. The remainder will come from the city’s airport reserves.

Habrych said if they are successful with their strategy to improve the winter landing rate, it will be all the more important to have a reliable plow to clear runways quick.

The existing plow, which is about 30 years old, will be overhauled to serve as a spare. Habrych said there may also be times when both plows are required simultaneously.

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