© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Air Canada Charlottetown Airport
Increasing flights, lowering prices key challenges
Hopping on a plane is a regular part of doing business for Terry Hashimoto.
He travels by air up to 90 days a year.
Since March, he has set up shop in Charlottetown for his digital sports technology business.
Hashimoto has found he has been looking skyward in disbelief at air travel in and out of the province. He has concerns with both the cost and availability of flights that fly in and out of Charlottetown.
He was particularly unnerved when his mother’s scheduled flight out of Charlottetown on Jan. 7 was cancelled because WestJet could not get a flight into Toronto.
Weather was the problem for a logjam at the airport, and Hashimoto can appreciate that, especially with the type of winter that has been wreaking havoc on air travel.
“I don’t consider weather anybody’s fault,’’ he says. “There isn’t anything you can do about it.’’
Still, he was dumbfounded when WestJet informed him the earliest alternate flight available was on Jan. 14 — one full week later.
“If I was a businessman stranded here for a week, that is unacceptable,’’ he says.
“I hear all these ads that Charlottetown is open for business...if Charlottetown wants to be open for business, you have to have an airline system that is effective. You can’t have a one-week delay.’’
Hashimoto says he welcomes extending his mother’s stay since it is nice to have her around longer. However, if a person was here doing business with Hashimoto and faced a one-week delay in flying out of the province, Hashimoto says he may be forced to drive the person to the mainland.
“In seven days you can lift off from Earth, land on the moon, but not get back to central Canada (from P.E.I.),’’ he says.
Work is being done to address the concerns business of people like Hashimoto over inadequate frequency of flights and pricey air travel in and out of Charlottetown.
An Air Service Development Committee has just been struck to focus on finding ways to encourage more air travel to and from the capital city as well as work at earning more competitive rates.
“There is no question being a small market...the availability of flights and the cost of flights can be a challenge,’’ says Doug Newson, CEO of the Charlottetown Airport Authority.
“We need competitive pricing and we need the airlines to be cooperative in that sense.’’
Newson says the Airport Authority meets with many groups on an ongoing basis to discuss air travel but recently decided to create a formal one.
The Air Service Development Committee will gather representatives from TIAPEI, Meetings P.E.I. Innovation P.E.I. and chambers of commerce in Summerside and Charlottetown among others to meet at least a couple times a year.
Kathy Hambly, executive director of the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce, says having a healthy, viable airport is important for local businesses.
“Certainly we recognize that we are operating in a small market and that has constraints,’’ she says.
Hambly is optimistic that the promise of 2014 being “a bumper year with meetings and conventions will spur airlines to increase capacity.
“It’s the old supply and demand,’’ she says.
Newson is also hopeful many more travelers will fly in and out of Charlottetown in 2014 as a year of events take place to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference. He notes, however, any expectations for increasing the number of flights and reducing ticket prices must be reasonable.
“I think for the most part people realize we are a small community,’’ he says.
“We are never going to be a Halifax or a Montreal. I think they (air travelers) are pleased with the growth that is taking place at the airport.’’