Integra Air leaves Cranbrook to draft new strategy

Flights from Cranbrook to Edmonton withdrawn while airline comes up with a more profitable plan

An Integra 16-passenger plane sits on the tarmac at Canadian Rockies International Airport.

An Integra 16-passenger plane sits on the tarmac at Canadian Rockies International Airport.

Integra Air is pulling out of Cranbrook airport for 18 months so it can restructure its service to better suit demand.

“The occupancy level has actually been quite low, which is the concern right now,” Brent Gateman, the airline’s CEO, told The Townsman.

The Lethbridge-based airline began a Cranbrook to Edmonton route last summer, and has scheduled flights three or five times a week for the past 14 months.

But the last scheduled flight will take off on September 7. Integra will then invest in larger aircraft that will allow it offer more frequent flights at lower prices. Currently, Integra uses 16-passenger planes for the Cranbrook-Edmonton route. Gateman said it will use 32-passenger planes when it resumes the route.

“It seems strange to add a bigger airplane with more frequency when you’re not even filling the airplane you’ve got right now,” said Gateman. “But it comes down to: is the reason the demand and the number of people wanting to travel? Or is it the fact that the travel isn’t at the time and at the price point that allows people to make it a choice? We feel the latter is the case and that just means we have to come back at it at a different angle. Unfortunately, we’re not prepared to do that right away. We need some time to go do that and come back.”

Gateman speculated that it would take 18 months to make those changes.

“It’s really hard at this point to be able to set a date. We hope that it is within the next 18 months, but no guarantees.”

Larger aircraft will mean Integra’s costs per seat mile are reduced, in turn meaning ticket prices will come down and there could be as many as two flights a day.

“We will probably be looking at twice the frequency – a morning flight and a late afternoon flight would most likely be the schedule. But a lot of that is going to depend on some of the interlying connections we are trying to explore to tap into additional markets to help feed the service,” said Gateman.

Integra hopes a new schedule will better appeal to commuters to the oilsands and diamond mines in northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

The airline will honour any current bookings, Gateman said.

“The service will be cut off after the last booking. Everyone that currently has a reservation will be serviced.”