Despite some of the challenges presented this year, the acting CEO of the Comox Valley Airport says there are some positive signs for the organization as they enter the final quarter of 2020.
Acting CEO Alex Robertson explains despite weathering the challenges of the pandemic, YQQ received some good news this month as WestJet announced an increase in flight service to and from the airport.
“It’s important because it increases the flexibility and captures travellers going east,” he notes.
Throughout the summer, WestJet reduced its daily flights to/from the airport from five to one. However, the loads on the one flight per day during the past few months were some of the highest throughout WestJet’s operations, adds Robertson.
While both WestJet and Pacific Coastal have resumed or increased their flight service, Air Canada has indicated it will delay its restart with the airport until Jan. 10, 2021. As for the weekly direct Comox-Puerto Vallarta flight operated by WestJet, Robertson says he has not heard from the airline if or when the flight may resume. While he’s hopeful it may return sometime in the new year, the chance of it coming on board prior to Christmas is low.
With a smaller terminal, cleaning, sanitation and health regulations have met or surpassed the requirements implemented by Transport Canada, he explains. Masks are required throughout the terminal, and people dropping off or waiting for passengers on flights are asked to wait outside the terminal doors.
“We’ve really worked together with airlines and other airports to increase our levels of safety to inspire confidence in our passengers,” says Robertson. “Passengers have really heeded the advice of public health and compliance has been outstanding.”
Staff hours at the airport have not been impacted by the downturn in the travel industry – a positive for staff who have faced significant challenges. All airport operations have remained open as the organization did apply for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to help support staff.
However, in early September, the airport faced an additional challenge, when CEO Fred Bigelow passed away. The impact of Bigelow’s loss was significant, Robertson notes, as he made major contributions to the culture and development at the Comox Valley Airport and the larger Comox Valley community.
“It is a bit of a challenge for staff, but we’ve really pulled together as a team.”
The search is underway for a permanent replacement and an announcement is expected soon.