Friday, November 27, 2015

Hawkair decision leaves much up in the air for the community.

A familiar sight at YPR will be missing for the next six
months as Hawkair suspends service to Prince Rupert

(photo from Hawkair website)

Yesterday's confirmation of the suspension of service for Hawkair out of Prince Rupert airport leaves a few questions up in the air  for residents of the North Coast, particularly when it comes to air service for the community and the potential impact on the airport operations as well.

As we've been following over the last few days, the first indication that something was up with the city's second airline came through some twitter comments relayed through the Hawkair website on Wednesday.  Those were followed by yesterdays statement from the airline providing more details to their business plan ahead when it comes to flights in and out of Prince Rupert.

In that statement Hawkair outlined the soft nature of the off season for the North Coast which it would seem runs from at least December through to June or July, with passenger levels not at the point where the airline believes that the run is feasible.

For those months it appears that the airline intends to reallocate the aircraft used on the Prince Rupert run, for flight operations between Terrace, Prince George and Kelowna, which would suggest will be a more profitable route for Hawkair.

That shift in assets does leave a question in mind for the spring perhaps, when Hawkair has said it will consider a return to Prince Rupert for the summer schedule.

As North Coast residents might be correct in wondering why Hawkair would then turn around and abandon a route such as the Prince George-Kelowna option that they will have been nurturing for six months, doing so at the height of the summer travel season.

Still, travellers from the North Coast will be hopeful that they see Hawkair back in town when June arrives and summer travel plans are in motion.

As for Prince Rupert, first and foremost there is the impact of the loss of jobs in the community, with Hawkair set to issue lay off notices for the station agents that worked out of the Highliner Inn offices.

Considering the current nature of the employment situation in the community, any job loss whether small in number such as with Hawkair, or the larger setback of earlier this month at Canadian Fish is not a good indication for the local economy.

With the suspension of Hawkair service to Prince Rupert
Flight movements and passenger levels will drop

Then there's the question of the impact of the suspension of the flight schedule on the Prince Rupert Airport, both when it comes to passenger levels and on revenues to be received both from the airline landing fees and through passenger movements.

With a major renovation project currently underway, and a larger more expansive vision being considered, an impact could be felt on the repayment schedule for the loan for those renovations, not to mention the optics of having one of your major tenants decide to move out, even before the renovations are completed.

Perhaps even more worrisome for the airport and future passenger levels, is the prospect of those that formerly made use of Hawkair, now having to find alternative options now for their travel needs.

With Air Canada seats at times rather hard to get (particularly if you're using the air miles options) the Terrace airport and its larger selection of flight options, may prove to be a temptation that steals away even more passengers than it already has from the Prince Rupert facility.

Prince Rupert is not the first community where Hawkair has suspended flights, recently the company ended its service to the Smithers area, with those Bulkley Valley residents that enjoy flying with the airline now making their way to the Terrace airport.

As for Thursday's confirmation of the suspended service to Prince Rupert, the City has not yet issued any form of a statement on the Hawkair decision through the city website, nor has the Mayor made mention of it through his frequently active Facebook page.

Which means to this point we do not have any indication if the City had received any advance notice of the Hawkair plans, or if they had attempted to work out some incentives or other accommodations to keep the service at YPR active on a year round basis.

As well, no indication has been provided yet as to just how large a financial impact the six month vacancy at the Prince Rupert Airport will have on the airports long term plans, or what steps they may have in mind to seek out alternative air options.

For more items related to transportation issues across the Northwest see our archive page here.

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