Did MP play role in Penticton Air Canada decision?

South Okanagan readers might have their MP to thank for Air Canada’s Valentine’s Day gift to Penticton travellers.

Richard Cannings reports he met on Parliament Hill with airline officials in early December to push for the newer, larger and quieter Q400 planes the airline will begin to use this spring for flights from Penticton to Vancouver.

The aircraft will provide for more seats in and out of Penticton on a daily basis, but the real benefit is that the Q400s have modern avionics that allow them to land and take off under cloudier, foggier, or smokier conditions.

“He mentioned that the timing of my request was good because decisions were going to be made this winter about which routes would be first in line for the new aircraft,” the MP for  South Okanagan – West Kootenay recounts.

“Ironically, when I flew back to BC that evening I had to overnight in Vancouver because my Penticton flight was turned around by low cloud — and I immediately sent off an email to the Air Canada representative to let him know that.”

The meeting was a culmination of a lobbying effort on the MP’s part that started last spring.

Mr. Cannings said there is evidence more than 60 percent of Penticton travellers fly out of Kelowna — “in part because they are concerned that the unreliable service in Penticton, particularly in winter, would jeopardize their connections to important business or holiday flights out of Vancouver.”

The last remaining piece in the service-improvement puzzle, Mr. Cannings adds is that NAV CANADA, the corporation that owns and operates Canada’s civil air navigation system, must develop and implement Required Navigation Performance (RNP) protocols for Penticton.

“These are the precise paths that aircraft must take when landing and taking off.  NAV CANADA recently announced that it is undertaking this process and hopefully it will be in place before next winter,” said Mr. Cannings.

“Reliable air service is essential to the economy of the southern Interior of BC, both for the tourism industry and for the many workers who choose to live here for the lifestyle but must travel regularly for work.”

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