P.E.I. group forms to improve local air travel

Jim Day
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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.’’

Organizations: Air Service Development Committee, Charlottetown Airport Authority, Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Toronto, Canada Summerside Montreal

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Recent comments

  • Frequent flyer
    January 13, 2014 - 11:30

    People here are right we have one of the highest landing fees in the country so why would another airline want to come here also next time your at the airport have a look around all the new equipment and vehicles going around not to mention some of the salaries this airport ain't hurting start working with the traveling public

  • Edward Gregory
    January 13, 2014 - 08:51

    Hashimoto obviously isn't a great businessman if he didn't check out the limited air service to/from Charlottetown. In addition, Westjet is NOT a business airline. It is a discount airline that flies in once a day, so it's not unreasonable that Westjet would not have a seat for his mother for a week. Get a grip. Move to a place that has better service. I travel in/out of the Charlottetown airport twice a month. I choose to live here and live with the limited air service. Sometimes I've had to drive to Halifax. Fact of life living in Charlottetown.

  • JC
    January 13, 2014 - 08:45

    We can sympathize with this customer. Our daughter was also scheduled for Jan 7th, but she wasn't offered the 14th from Chtown, she was told POSSIBLY the 11th from Halifax, with no offer of how she was to get to Halifax. We booked her on Air Canada, then WestJet refused a refund. Once a week is totally unacceptable. If they want to come here in the busy high season times, they should be forced to provide a better service in the off season times.

  • nitpicker
    January 13, 2014 - 08:45

    I don't completely disagree with Hashimoto, because there's always room for improvement. But he doesn't seem to be acknowledging two things: We're a tiny province...what exactly are your expectations for air travel options? Second, is one-week delay a Charlottetown issue or a WestJet issue? Air Canada has far more flights out of PEI.

    • UPWESTER
      January 13, 2014 - 20:29

      My son missed his flight on October 7th and couldn't get another flight to Toronto until November 2nd, and this was with Air Canada! He also had to go thru. Montreal, couldnt get a direct flight.

  • tired
    January 13, 2014 - 07:18

    "An Air Service Development Committee has just been struck" Here we go again, another committee

  • Mike
    January 13, 2014 - 06:22

    It's important to understand the costs added onto the price in and out of Charlottetown. YYG has the countries 2nd highest landing fees next to Pearson International, this translates into pricier air travel. We have one main airline, Air Canada. West Jet operates part time and only offers one direct route.. There is no competition, and I wouldnt hold my breath to see AC offer fairer reasonable pricing. To travel a round trip to Halifax from Charlottetown is on average $800 or more. The same distance flight is %40 or more cheaper else where in the country. The airport operates on a 15.5 hour day, perhaps offering 24hr service is a solution. The airport also wrapped up a $10 000 000 renovation and the bill has to be paid. I cannot see costs going anywheres but up. The only solution is real competition from another air carrier, sadly the renovation didn't account for more competition as the check in counters are assigned and spoken for by the part time carriers.

  • islandguy
    January 13, 2014 - 04:45

    I would like to know what Doug Newson credentials are for running a airport