Air Canada has suspended flights to Prince Rupert Regional Airport due to COVID-19 mitigation, the airline announced on Jan. 13. (Photo:THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Air Canada has suspended flights to Prince Rupert Regional Airport due to COVID-19 mitigation, the airline announced on Jan. 13. (Photo:THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

YPR is not immune to plummeted air travel demands – 25 jobs lost

Prince Rupert Regional Airport flight cancellation will levee significant hardship - Rick Leach

More than 25 local employees will be laid off including ground handling and security staff, after Air Canada cut flights to the city on Jan. 13. Only a skeleton staff will be kept on to ensure the safety and the viability of the airport and also so runways are maintained, Rick Leach Prince Rupert Regional Airport manager, said.

The suspension of flights, by Air Canada to and from Prince Rupert will “levee significant hardship for all the communities served by YPR,” Leach said.

Initially, flights were reported to be discontinued as of Jan. 23, but Leach said that information changed in correspondence from Air Canada later in the day. Flights will now be suspended as of Jan. 17.

“Due to the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for air travel has plummeted and this has been reflected in the cancellation of air service to many communities across Canada. (Prince Rupert Airport) YPR has not been immune to these elements,” Leach said in a media statement issued by the airport on Jan. 13.

“The Airport Authority and city leaders have all expressed dismay at this turn of events and will lobby government officials to take immediate action and provide relief to the industry,” Leach said.

“They’re (airlines) not making any money, and they continue to bleed. So they’re going to continue to turn down service, and this is not just a Prince Rupert issue, it’s more of a national issue, for both Westjet and Air Canada,” Leach told The Northern View. “And what they’re telling me is that they are bleeding enough, and the demand is low.”

Leach said, just as importantly he thinks the airlines are using the situation as a negotiation tool because they want financial support from the government like other industries have received during the pandemic.

“So, I think by closing these stations, they are trying to put pressure because they want the government to give them money,” he said.

READ MORE: Failure of Government and airlines leave regional and community airports on the brink of financial collapse

The debate between the airlines and the government has been going for the past year Leach said, with the situation now becoming quite combative. The government wanted the airlines to refund tickets and it’s a sticking point he said, with the government not giving money to the industry if the industry is not going to reimburse customers.

“But if the government is willing to give these airlines money, then I’m assuming there’s going to be some mandates that they’ve got to return this service (to Prince Rupert), or they have to put us in the pie and give us a slice of it because we’re just as affected, if not worse actually. The airport’s now going to be in critical financial health and it’s going to become a potential burden to the city.”

“Obviously, the financial impact of the airport transfers to the city because they own the airport. So we’ve made some financial restructuring of some of our debt, which got us through the first push,” Leach said. “But now, we’re at the stage where we’re looking for another three months pause here. It’s going to further put us behind the eight ball, and we’ll have to be creative on what it is we’re going to do.”

The airport receives $24 per seat, so cancelled flights mean that revenue is lost and never able to be recouped, he said, but he believes the demand for flights from Prince Rupert will always be there because there is a reliance on air transportation.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the death of the airport, because we’re the third-largest port in Canada. So, from a business perspective, it seems very short-sighted that they wouldn’t want an airport. Then when we put in all of the surrounding communities, the First Nations communities and Prince Rupert we do rely on air service for essential services to Vancouver. I can’t see it’s going away.”

The alternative for Prince Rupert is to travel to Terrace, which places an undue burden on residents, Leach said. “The viable option of Terrace is somewhat unpalatable in the middle of winter, down Hwy 16 driving in a snow storm.”

While medical transportation flights for emergencies will not be affected, there are a lot of people who use commercial airlines to obtain medical services in Vancouver, the airport manager said.

“What this will look like also on the other side — that’ll be one thing,” he said. “Air Canada has, in my conversations, they have remained committed to the market. They haven’t given me any indication that they’re just going to move on to other things. They value the market.”

“While the future is uncertain as to when, as a society, we can return to normal, we are all committed to the return of full air service to YPR,” Leach said. “We are confident that YPR will regain our market and provide reliable, safe travel for our communities. Air Canada has indicated a resumption of service will likely occur in April and we will keep everyone apprised of our progress as we move forward.”

READ MORE: More P.R. bookings are needed to combat financial loss and sustain airport through COVID-19 recovery

K-J Millar | Journalist 
Send K-J email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Staff at Acropolis Manor, a Prince Rupert long-term health care facility in April 2020 where no cases of COVID-19 were reported until an outbreak on Jan. 19, 2021. As of Jan. 25th, 32 people associated with the residence have tested positive for the virus. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Staff at Acropolis Manor a Prince Rupert long term health care facility, take pride in their work place that no COVID-19 cases have been reported in the facility during the pandemic.This photo taken, April 20, from outside, looking through a window shows staff adhering to strict protocols and best practices to keep residents happy and healthy. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
COVID-19 numbers increase at Acropolis Manor – 32 infected

Prince Rupert man concerned about temp. staff from out of region working at long-term care facility

Ken Veldman vice president, public affairs and sustainability, at Prince Port Port Authority on Jan. 21 addressed local employers in an online presentation about a new community recruitment program to attract employees to Prince Rupert. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
New recruitment campaign to be launched in Prince Rupert

Web platform will use community collaboration to attract new employees to Prince Rupert

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
5 big lessons experts say Canada should learn from COVID-19

‘What should be done to reduce the harms the next time a virus arises?’ Disease control experts answer

A Vancouver Police Department patch is seen on an officer’s uniform as she makes a phone call. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver man calls 911 to report his own stabbing, leading to arrest: police

Officers located the suspect a few blocks away. He was holding a bloody knife.

Most Read