Chorus of politicians, business leaders demanding international flights return to Kelowna gets louder

MP wants airport answers

Kelowna-Lake Country MP Tracy Gray is making another plea for the federal government to open Kelowna International Airport to international flights.

She has sent a third letter to the Minister of Transport, asking for the metrics and data being used to deny YLW, but allow similar airports and those with lesser travel volume to resume international flights.

Her latest correspondence follows letters sent on July 30 and October 7.

“I am once again asking the government to return Kelowna International Airport’s international designation. The political decision by the government to keep our airport closed to international flights is costing our region millions of dollars, our residents deserve better,” said Gray.

She also sent the minister letters of support from several prominent community organizations and stakeholders, outlining why it is essential that international travel return to YLW.

Ellen Walker-Matthews with the Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association points out that while other airports across the country reopen to visitors from outside the country, Kelowna has been given no timeline by Transport Canada, and that’s putting the region at a disadvantage in terms of economic recovery.

Among those concerned with the stalemate are winter tourism operators, who usually have plenty of bookings by now.

“To date, lack of international connections has resulted in a $2.6 million loss to the airport and Canada Mountain Holidays LP for the heli-ski industry. Even short delays or a few weeks could make an enormous impact on us and our local network,” said Chris Mink, Director of Facilities and Transportation, CMH Heli-Skiing.

“Destination BC is spending over $3 million promoting winter skiing in British Columbia, in Washington State, Oregon, and California. We can’t handle the inquiries regarding air because we have no information on when it will start up again. We believe this is killing the good business we have built together over the last 20 years” added Michael J. Ballingall, President, Tourism Big White Society.

In her letter to Omar Alghabra, Gray wrote that many local community organizations in her riding have reached out to her, asking for action from the federal government to level the playing field for YLW.

Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola MP Dan Albas also writes about the ongoing frustration over the airport being denied reopening to international flights, in his weekly column on Castanet.

He writes that he has heard from several in the accommodation and tourism sector who are losing tens of thousands of dollars in revenue as American customers book direct trips to other Canadian Airports.

Albas notes one small business owner recently vented in frustration – they do not want “government handouts” they simply want the opportunity to host their guests again.

Castanet has requested an explanation from Transport Canada.

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