Dec 1, 2003 | Marmot, Winter 2003

Horizon Air on the Horizon and Possible Direct Flights to Mexico

A new regional airline is now servicing the Comox Valley, and two more only have to give the final nod before offering international flights. And that’s good news for Chuck Fast, Comox Valley Airport Manager.

Central Mountain Air began flying a Vancouver-Comox-Campbell River route at the beginning of December, providing service directly to the main terminal at Vancouver International Airport – a service Comox lost in 1999, when AirBC pulled out of both its North Island location.

Late in November, Alaskan Airlines gave tentative approval to bring their codeshare partner, Horizon Air, into Comox for direct daily flights to Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport by June 2004. Air Transat is setting up charters to Mexico, using WestJet’s Boeing 737s, which sit on the ground in Comox for a minimum of 14 hours on the weekend, Comox Valley Airport Commission spokesman Terry Law said.

This is Central Mountain Air’s second stint at Comox; they first started service in 1997, initially as the Air Canada connector.

“From the customer service point of view, we’ve finally been able to regain what we lost,” Fast said. The addition of Central Mountain Air also gives residents of the North Island unprecedented air travel options, with Helijet in Campbell River, CMA servicing both communities, WestJet connecting Comox to Calgary and Edmonton, and Pacific Coastal connecting both Comox and Campbell River to multiple sites along the coast.

Meanwhile passenger numbers on WestJet and Pacific Coastal are up 11 per cent over last year, Fast said – about seven per cent ahead of the business forecast.

Having Horizon connect straight to Sea-Tac will give that airline an advantage over Helijet, which presently flies between Campbell River and Boeing Field, shuttling passengers to Sea-Tac for connecting flights, Law said. Horizon also flies to other Canadian cities like Kelowna and Kamloops, and Law is hopeful that prices for those flights will be competitive.

Construction of a new passenger air terminal at the Airport is going well, and is on budget, he said. Comox Valley MLA Stan Hagen took a tour of the site in November, and was heartened by what he saw: steel framework progressing and paving in the parking area and the front of the terminal. Hagen is hoping the provincial government will complete the picture with some Transportation Partnership Program funding which the Comox Valley Airport Commission (CVAC) will use to complete a customs area.

“I’m feeling pretty positive about this,” Hagen said. “It’s (airport) going to be a big economic boon to the Comox Valley.”

Securing that funding became vital for CVAC once Alaskan Airlines promised to bring in Horizon Air, Law said. “We’d better have the provincial funding to pay for the customs wing.”

Flying charters to Mexico with WestJet has been a goal for CVAC for a long time.

The fact that they signed an agreement with AirTransat earlier this year improved Comox’s chances. “We see that as our niche,” Fast said.

WestJet’s 737 sits on the tarmac overnight on the weekend, and Law said charters to places like Mexico, California and Hawaii are feasible.

The new passenger terminal at Comox Airport should be operational around early May.

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