CMA to suspend Fort Nelson flights

Central Mountain Air says it will suspend flights between Fort Nelson and Prince George starting in February.

Service will be suspended Feb. 3 to at least May 3, the airline said Tuesday. The move comes after flights were suspended between Fort St. John and Prince George this month. 

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"Devastating declines in travel and extended provincial health advisories against non-essential travel have necessitated a significant scaling back of our scheduled operations for the foreseeable future," said CEO Bob Cummings in a statement.

"The federal government has been promising for almost a year that help is on the way to support these essential air services, but no such support has been received or clearly outlined. Our customers and the communities we serve are bearing the brunt of this inaction. In addition to supporting the local economies with the transport of essential workers, our airline and its dedicated staff fly customers to medical treatments and transport medical supplies, mail, and other vital cargo.”

Flights between Kamloops and Prince George, and Edmonton and High Level will also be suspended starting in February.

The airline says it has continued to operate the routes while sustaining losses since the pandemic began, with only one short suspension last year.

Cummings encouraged residents to write their MLAs and MPs, as well as the premier and federal transport minister, if they rely on its regional air services.

"With government support, we would be proud to continue to serve our customers and maintain crucial airline connectivity in British Columbia and Alberta until demand returns," he said. "If there is any chance to save vital air service to these communities, action must be urgently undertaken."

Peace River North MLA Dan Davies has co-written a letter to federal transport minister Omar Alghabra and his provincial counterpart Rob Fleming, urging for a financial aid package. 

In the letter, Davies and provincial Opposition transport critic Michael Lee say Fort Nelson will be the most impacted, noting it has already seen curtailed bus service over the last three years. Losing air service will severely restrict residents from accessing medical, educational, and other essential services outside the community, they said.

"In the face of the pandemic, we need to ensure that the transportation networks are sustained as an essential service, particularly to northern communities, which rely critically on air transportation," they wrote, "and also to ensure that these routes will be maintained to support the post-COVID economic recovery and growth, as well as health and safety, of these communities."

Suspended air services will also "severely impair" economic development in the region, they said.

"The tourism industry in the region is COVID-19 battered and bruised," reads the letter. "Hotels, guide outfitters, tour operators, as well as other businesses linked to travel will be further dealt yet another economic blow that may very well be the last straw and will likely prove unrecoverable for some."

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

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