Northwest MP and MLA urge Air Canada to change Sandspit flight times

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach and North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice are urging Air Canada to reconsider the recent changes they made to Sandspit flight times.

In a letter addressed to Serge Corbiel, director of government relations for Air Canada’s Western Region, the elected officials explained why the new, later arrival into Sandspit is causing issues.

Currently, the last ferry from Sandspit to Graham Island, where most of the other communities are, is 6 p.m., which is before the flight from Vancouver lands.

Many passengers travelling through the Sandspit airport do not live in the community and have to use the ferry to get to their final destination.

BC Ferries used to offer sailings on the M.V. Kwuna between the two islands every day until 10 p.m. However, the M.V. Kwuna has been out of operation since September as it is being refitted.

The temporary, alternative service that has been provided uses a tug and barge, which has its last sailing at 6 p.m.

In the letter, Bachrach and Rice state this alternative ferry schedule is only in place until Nov. 24.

“Having passengers essentially stuck in Sandspit until the next day when the ferry resumes is an impractical challenge given the limited accommodation as well as the added expense for the majority of Haida Gwaii citizens,” the letter states.

The Air Canada website shows flights arriving in Sandspit from Vancouver throughout November on Mondays at 7:23 p.m. and on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 6:23 p.m.

In an email to the Haida Gwaii Observer, Air Canada stated that they “understand the schedule concerns expressed by community stakeholders and are actively engaged with the community on the matter.”

There are two airports on Haida Gwaii, one in Masset in the north and one in Sandspit in the south. Air Canada operates out of the southern airport and Pacific Coastal Airlines flies out of the north.

On Oct. 26, Pacific Coastal Airlines announced they have added an additional flight from Vancouver to Masset every Monday from Nov. 7 to Dec 12.

“These additional flights underscore our commitment to ensuring that the residents of Haida Gwaii continue to have access to seats for important travel needs, such as medical appointments and cargo capacity,” the airline stated in a Facebook post.

Kaitlyn Bailey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View