COMOX, B.C. – For the time being at least, ultra-low cost carriers won’t be flying out of Comox Valley Airport.
“We’ve been talking to some of the low cost carriers but right now, what we’re seeing is principally they’re focused on high density locations,” said Fred Bigelow, CEO of Vancouver Island’s second largest airport.
Bigelow says ultra-low cost Canadian carriers such as Westjet’s Swoop and Flair Airlines are trying to emulate U.S. models, enticing passengers who wouldn’t otherwise fly through lower fares.
Swoop and Flair Air have shown less interest into going into “tertiary” airports like Comox or Nanaimo because there aren’t enough people to “cram those airplanes full,” Bigelow told MyComoxValleyNow.com.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how Swoop evolves over time,” Bigelow said. “Right now they’ve got really good service with non-stop service to Puerto Vallarta, and there’s lots of other service out of Victoria and Vancouver going to sun spots, and they’re not necessarily going to want to steal from their own passengers.”
In the near term, Bigelow doesn’t see Swoop and Flair looking at smaller markets like Comox, but he noted that as the airlines continue to develop, they may branch out.
“I try to calm people’s expectations,” he said. “(So) not anytime soon. It doesn’t fit their business model.”
Comox Valley Airport served 369,161 passengers in 2017 and has grown 90 per cent since its new terminal opened in 2004.
The airport serves passengers from central and northern Vancouver Island with its daily direct flights to/from Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver onboard Air Canada, Pacific Coastal Airlines, and WestJet.
“If we look to our main carriers, Westjet and Air Canada, what they want us to do mainly is feed the hubs,” Bigelow said.
“This summer we’re going to peak at five aircraft a day going to Vancouver,” he noted. “I always say, ‘I dare you to find another community like ours, with our immediate population of 65,000, that has this kind of air service.’ Honestly, you just won’t find it in Canada.”