Pacific Coastal Airlines celebrated its staying power in a tough, competitive industry with an event marking its 10th anniversary at the Canadian Rockies International Airport, as it is now known.
The event took place Monday, Sept. 9, at the St. Eugene Mission Resort, hosted by Pacific Coastal — whose Vice-President Spencer Smith was among those in attendance. Smith announced that starting Oct. 2, Pacific Coastal would be offering a new “same-plane” flight from Cranbrook to Victoria — travellers would stay on the plane during a short stopover in Vancouver, then resume the flight over the Salish Sea, as opposed to transferring to another plane, as is the case now.
Pacific Coastal is a family-owned and operated business. Spencer Smith is the son of Daryl Smith, a logger who started up a small bush pilot business in the Bella Coola area.w The book “A Pilot’s Log: Daryl Smith and Pacific Coastal Airlines,” by Jack Schofield, describes how Smith grew his airline from the ground up, surviving takeover attempts by larger airlines and “a turf war for dominance in Canada’s skies.”
“As I always say, the aviation business is up and down,” Smith told the Townsman on Monday evening.
“But for us to be here for 10 years servicing the area is fantastic. We didn’t know what to expect when we came in, and we’re happy to still be here and still be relevant in the market. And more overall, relevant in the aviation business in B.C.
“It’s been a tough go — the aviation industry isn’t the place for everybody, that’s for sure.”
Spencer Smith has seen a lot of changes in the aviation industry, but probably not as much as his father did.
“He (Daryl Smith) experienced all that stuff in a way that I didn’t as I grew up in the business. Certainly the regulatory role today is different when he was flying around in the bush, moving loggers around.
“It’s been an ever revolving change, and what’s happening now is the evolution of Westjet Encore and Air Canada’s regional services is interesting to watch, to see how the Canadian market changes in relation to that.
At Monday’s event, Kevin Boothroyd, Director of Sales and Marketing for Pacific Coastal, outlined some facts about the airline:
The sixth largest airline at YVR (the Vancouver airport) — “so larger than British Airways, Singapore Airlines, and other major airlines flying in and out of Vancouver,” Boothroyd said.
• The third largest airline at YVR for take-offs and landings;
• The largest airline for destinations in B.C.
Boothroyd said because of Pacific Coastal’s service of so many small communities in the province, the airline sees considerable use for political and government flights, medical travel, blood and organ transport, and mail and courier flights.
Boothroyd also said that Pacific Coastal is working closely with First Nations in B.C. A detail of this the airline’s interest in helping keep aboriginal languages vital, like the local Ktunaxa language. In fact, Pacific Coastal will be incorporating Ktunaxa signage and messaging at the Canadian Rockies International Airport.