B.C.-based airlines are cutting some routes and in some cases shutting down all operations to slow the spread of COVID-19 as provincial health officials urge British Columbians to avoid being in confined spaces with others, and to practice “social-distancing,” which is essentially to stay about two metres from other people.
Pacific Coastal Airlines announced Friday that it will suspend operations as of Tuesday, and that it plans to resume scheduled operations on May 3, if conditions allow.
Harbour Air has been reducing its flight operations but is still flying to many of the B.C. communities in its network. It has halted its flights as a result of the federal government closing its border with the U.S. to all but essential travel as of midnight on Saturday. Those cancellations are so far set to be until May 1.
Harbour Air’s marketing manager, Samantha Kent, told Business in Vancouver that the Seattle flights were the company’s only cross-border ones and that given that the airline in peak season has its 40 planes flying about 300 flights per day, the halting of the U.S. flights is “nominal.”
The company is updating its website to keep customers informed as things change.
“We still are offering scheduled flights, private flights and charter services,” Kent said. Its parcel-express service is also operating.
As for Pacific Coastal Airlines, its president, Quentin Smith, said the suspension of all operations was a “difficult but necessary decision to take.”
He said that the feasibility of flying is “rapidly deteriorating” and that given “the need to be socially responsible during this state of emergency, we have no other choice than to take this drastic step to protect the health and safety of our employees, the public and the financial stability of our airline.”
Helijet vice-president Rick Hill told BIV that his airline has decreased the frequency of its Vancouver-Nanaimo and Vancouver-Victoria routes and has halved the capacity on the planes to six from 12.
The airline has also stepped up its sanitization for its aircraft.
The moves come as major airlines are also drastically reducing their operations.
Air Canada announced Thursday that it would lay off more than 5,000 flight attendants immediately and that the layoffs would last at least through April. It also plans to stop most international flights by March 31. Its Air Canada Rouge subsidiary is completely shut down.
WestJet has said that it will not fly Canadians out of Canada by Sunday but that it will help the federal government get Canadians from abroad back to Canada by operating some flights. Sunwing is operating similarly.
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