Pacific Coastal Airlines is ending regular flight service between Vancouver International Airport and the Canadian Rockies International Airport at the end of April, according to a company announcement.
The company blamed shortages with pilots and aircraft maintenance personnel as it continues to experience challenges coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As our organization continues to emerge from the pandemic we are experiencing operational constraints due to the critical pilot and aircraft maintenance engineer shortage,” said Johnathan Richardson, Vice President of Customer & Commercial. “We are unable to offer our desired level of flight frequency and capacity and have made the difficult decision to suspend flights between Vancouver and Cranbrook, as well as reduce capacity in other markets in our network, to ensure that we can maintain offering a reliable and robust flight schedule for 2023.”
Pacific Coastal Airlines has been operating the service between the two airports since 2003, with a brief interruption in 2020 due to a pilot shortage just as the pandemic began. However, market conditions rebounded and the service resumed a few months later.
Customers affected by the cancellation will be contacted and offered a full refund, according to the company.
Air Canada and WestJet provide flight service between Cranbrook and Vancouver.
Tristen Chernove, the managing director of the Canadian Rockies International Airport, acknowledged the current challenges facing the airline industry while hailing Pacific Coastal Airlines for a strong partnership with the Cranbrook airport and the East Kootenay region.
“Regardless of where Pacific Coastal is currently operating at our airport or not, our strong relationship with Pacific Coastal Airlines will continue,” Chernove said. “I think they’ve been a partner to us in much more ways than just air service, with destination development and tourism marketing.”
Competition from Air Canada and WestJet, which have larger airplanes and seating capacity to share the cost and keep fees lower was a contributing factor, Chernove added.
”To match those prices on an aircraft of only 19 seats when Air Canada and West Jet are offering a larger plane with more seats to share the cost, it has not been sustainable for Pacific Coastal,” he said. “The fares of late to Vancouver are often around $89 on Air Canada and WestJet and Pacific Coastal, for them to try to do that on a 19 seat aircraft, it’s just that much more difficult.
“Add to that, competition and having to consolidate down to routes that they can more easily maintain — they’re really having to prioritize routes where they’re the sole operator.”