“We see our partnership and growth in Fort St. John in conjunction with how this community itself is going to be going,” says Senior Vice President of Regional Markets Kevin Howlett. “As this community grows in terms of economic clout, we will be there to support that.”
Director of Government Affairs and Community Relations for Western Canada Eamonn Horan-Lunney adds that the airline has been able to match the roller coaster demand for service in other communities driven by resource development.
“There’s been numerous communities in Newfoundland, Alberta and northern Ontario and Quebec where they’ve had these boom cycles, and we’ve been able to respond to their economic needs in appropriate ways.”
The reps met with several groups Tuesday, including the North Peace Airport Society and Economic Development Commission, along with the Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Lori Ackerman, and members of the hospitality industry. Howlett says they were given feedback on a number of service issues, including the demand for direct flights to Calgary, and the timing of departures and arrivals. In turn, Air Canada filled the stakeholders in on factors it has to consider, like scheduling, routing, capacity and demand.
“Our partnership goes long and deep here and we very much want to be a part of the economic development going on in this section of the province,” Howlett maintains. “We got lots of good ideas from them in terms of suggestions, in terms of timelines when things are about to happen in the economic front here.”
As for routes, both Howlett and Horan-Lunney stress the significance of flying into YVR, as it means anyone can get to FortSt. John in two flights.
“You get into the Vancouver hub,” says Howlett. “There’s nowhere in the globe you can’t go probably from within an hour of arriving, and conversely you get back into the Vancouver hub, you can get back to Fort St. John with an hour or two connection time.”
“You can leave here in the morning, be in Calgary for lunch, and be back that night,” argues Horan-Lunney. “It’s a long day, but we have the connectivity so you’re there and back in a day. No other airline allows you to do that in a day right now.
President of the North Peace Airport Society Fred Jarvis attended all of yesterday’s meetings, and says he was pleased with the frank discussions that were had.
“It’s not that long back that we could hardly get to talk to an executive, let alone have them sit in a room all day with use,” he remembers. “That is a tremendous change; it is very, very welcome, and I think that they’re pleased with the outcomes that they’ve already had.”
He argues the airline has a better understanding of the airport and its needs and motivations, and the representatives left knowing more about the area than they came with.
“When you’re running from stats, you’re always running six months behind, so you’re not even up to date when that’s what you’re doing,” he says of having face-to-face meetings. “They recognize a lot of things that are great challenges here to try to make things happen.”
At the end of the day, Jarvis commented on it being a “tremendous” start to many more conversations. Air Canada currently runs four flights a day out of the North Peace Airport, with capacity for approximately 300 passengers.