Air Canada will once again be flying into the Kamloops Airport after it suspended flights there in January of this year.
While the move will surely come as good news to the tourism sector, the director of the airport said a full-recovery to pre-pandemic flight levels is still a long way off.
The flights, which will fly between Kamloops and Vancouver, and Calgary and Kamloops, are to resume at the start of June.
Ed Ratuski, managing director of the Kamloops Airport, said while it’s positive news that the flights are back, this does not mean that the frequency of flights are a guarantee.
“It’ll be based on passenger demand,” he said. “And that’s largely dependent on the travel restrictions that remain in place and advice from the provinces and federal health officials.”
Ratuski added the Kamloops Airport is not expecting to see a full recovery for years.
“We’re not looking for full recovery until 2024, and that’s just back to the 2019 levels,” said Ratuski. “The impacts are going to be sustained for quite a while.”
The deal comes as the federal government and Air Canada announced a landmark deal last week.
As part of the agreement, Air Canada is required to reinstate service to smaller regional airlines.
It is also required to maintain employment levels at levels no lower than those of April 1 of this year, and refund passengers who had flights cancelled due to travel restrictions.
In other positive news for the Kamloops Airport, last month Westjet announced the return of a twice weekly flight between Kamloops and Edmonton to begin this summer.
Ratuski said this decision was motivated by a number of factors, including pent-up demand for leisure travel, catering to business travellers and the opportunity to transport Trans Mountain pipeline workers.
During a press conference last week, Chrystia Freeland, deputy prime minister, celebrated the Air Canada deal as a win for Canadians.
As part o f the deal, the government will provide the airline with up to $5.4 billion in low-interest loan as well as purchase $500 million worth of company stock, with the expectation that the loans will be paid back in full.
“Taxpayers aren’t footing the bill,” she said. “This is a loan facility and the government of Canada fully expects to be paid back. This is a good and fair deal for Canada and Canadians.”
With regards to staffing issues at the Kamloops Airport, Ratuski said they cannot bring staff back at this point.
“Because of the numbers expected to rise so slowly, we aren’t expecting any additional staffing or recall of our own employees during the summer period,” said Ratuski.
“Right now we’re maintaining the coverage. We need to based on the traffic levels that are anticipated throughout the year, so unfortunately we won’t be able to recall all the staff that was let go.”