Hawkair Aviation will no longer service the Prince Rupert Airport starting on Dec. 1 until May or June of next year.
Hawkair president Jay Dilley confirmed on Thursday the company’s plans to pull its service from Prince Rupert, move it to Kelowna and its subsequent layoff of seven of its customer service staff in Prince Rupert.
“During the slower winter months, we’re going to be shifting the capacity out of Prince Rupert and moving it over to Kelowna,” said Dilley.
“It’s a normal [practice] we’ve done in the past. In the past few winters, we’ve stayed over the course of the winter time, but this year we’ve decided we’ve got a lot more flying opportunity to happen out of the Kelowna market, so we’re moving the aircraft there.”
“A couple” full-time workers’ positions have been lost and approximately five part-time or casual staff are also being laid off.
The rest of the Prince Rupert operation’s pilot, flight attendant and administrative staff are largely based in Vancouver.
Customers who have flights booked for the winter months are currently being contacted about transitioning over to an Air Canada flight, except for a few select Hawkair flights in December and January, which won’t be affected.
The reason for the pulling of its service is hard to be pinned down on one reason, but Dilley explained that the company is experiencing slower traffic in more areas than just Prince Rupert.
“Just in general, we’re seeing much lower traffic in Terrace, we’re seeing lower traffic in Vancouver – the Alberta market is very slow. I can’t really pinpoint anything with respect to Prince Rupert itself. We’re just seeing a general slower market, but we are seeing a stronger market over in Kelowna,” Dilley said, adding that Kelowna will be serviced six days per week.
The company is targeting a May or June return to Prince Rupert.
“That’s when we see traffic. Individuals in Canada just start to travel a lot more during that period of time and that’s our intention – to restart the seasonal summer session probably in May or June … We had a great summer [in Prince Rupert]. We served a lot of guests, but right now we see it as being a slower period of time and its prudent for us to move that aircraft to a place that’s in need of a larger aircraft,” said the president.