An extra daily flight to Trail from Vancouver should net the city’s lone air passenger carrier a 35 per cent increase in air traffic volume this year, says the company’s vice president of commercial services.
Spencer Smith said Pacific Coastal had targeted a 38 per cent increase in air traffic out of Trail when they elected to add a third daily flight to the Lower Mainland last spring.
But it is likely the company will realize a slightly lower increase at 35 per cent — or around 7,000 passengers per year — when it is all said and done, he said.
The airline added the evening trip to and from Vancouver Sunday through Friday, something that had never been tried in the Silver City.
“We felt it was a good scheduling and timing for flights, but we really had no way to know for sure to know if the region would welcome a flight at that time of the day,” said Smith.
“And they did. We had real good regional support for that time.”
Smith also pointed to the longevity of the carrier in the market, earning the confidence of people that they are here to stay. As well, he said the reports of a greater success rate in getting into the West Kootenay than Castlegar’s Air Canada flight service has helped boost traffic.
“I suspect that probably plays a role, certainly at this time of the year,” he said.
The Waneta Dam expansion project, as well as some commercial development in the area has benefitted the airline.
However, the company put on too much extra capacity with the addition of the flight and the subsequent growth in traffic didn’t match, he added. The company was using a 30-seat Saab 340A and should have instead employed a 19-seat Beechcraft 1900C.
The new spring/summer schedule was designed to provide Greater Trail residents more travel options and greater convenience, offering the latest departure time (just after 8 p.m.) from Trail by any airline in the region.
As of Nov. 5 that extended schedule has ended due to shorter daylight hours. The airline can no longer operate late due to dark conditions, said Smith.
Pacific Coastal has now reverted back to two flights per day and uses its 30-passenger aircraft for both flights rather than its 19-seater to meet anticipated demand. The third flight will resume in late February, Smith said.
The Richmond-based company opened its operation in Trail on April 10, 2006, offering a single flight from Vancouver seven days a week. Strong local support and growing passenger numbers led to the addition of a second weekday flight about six months later.
Last year the airline broke a record for Trail passengers by surpassing the 20,000 mark near Christmas. The demand for the service in Trail had grown by almost 25 per cent in 2011 — up from 12,000 in 2006 — with a jump in total passengers going from 15,400 in 2010 to over 20,000 in 2011.
Increased reliability of the service has been their hallmark, with 98 per cent of the flights landing passengers on Kootenay ground.
Pacific Coastal provides regularly scheduled flights to more than 65 destinations in the province, as well as cargo, and charter services across Western Canada.