IT’S THE end of an era in regional air transportation with the cancellation as of Oct. 1 of a non-stop Terrace to Vancouver and return passenger service using a Hawkair aircraft.
The move was made necessary because of declining passenger counts, says Doug McCrea of Smithers-based Central Mountain Airlines which absorbed Hawkair’s planes and crew within its own schedule earlier this year.
“It was a difficult decision and not something which we would take lightly,” said McCrea.
He said the general economy in the northwest and the passenger capacity of the other two airlines using the Northwest Regional Airport here, Air Canada and WestJet, affected business.
“There was hope for the possibility of LNG but that hasn’t materialized as of yet,” said McCrea.
People wishing to use a Central Mountain/Hawkair service to Vancouver from Terrace can still do so but will first have to route through Prince George.
Not affected are Central Mountain’s flights from Terrace to and from Prince George, its Kelowna-Prince George-Terrace route, its Prince George to Vancouver flights or its flights in and out of northeastern B.C.
Hawkair entered the northwestern B.C. aviation scene first as a freight carrier in 1994 before converting to a passenger service in 2000 from an operations base at the Northwest Regional Airport here.
Its first passenger scheduled flights were from Terrace to Vancouver but it then expanded to include Prince Rupert and Smithers flights to Vancouver.
It also began offering service to northeastern B.C. and, for a brief time, to Victoria.
The company ran into financial difficulties and received protection from its creditors before being bought by an Alberta company which then sold it to the parent company of Central Mountain Airlines in 2011.
Hawkair suspended its Smithers to Vancouver once before reviving it but cancelled it again in mid-2015 and in late 2015 announced it was suspending its Prince Rupert service.
The merging of its planes with Central Mountain’s service, the two are owned by the same parent company, this year also meant the closure here of its reservation system.
But McCrea isn’t anticipating any further direct job loss as a result of the Terrace to Vancouver cancellation.
“The aircraft still have to be maintained and we still need flight crew,” he said.
Central Mountain will look at expanding its scheduled service elsewhere and pursuing charter opportunities, he said.