Orca Airways suspended all operations on April 30, 2018. They will no longer be flying to Tofino-Long Beach Airport, and existing customers will be re-booked on Pacific Coastal Airlines. (Orca Airways Facebook Photo)

Orca Airways closes shop after 13 years in business

Qualicum Beach Airport operations ended April 30

As of April 30, Qualicum Beach has one less airline carrier.

Orca Airways will no longer be flying to Qualicum Beach Airport or its other former Vancouver Island locations, though at least some ticketed passengers will be re-booked on Pacific Coastal Airlines, which has taken over Orca operations.

Kevin Boothroyd, director of business development for Pacific Coastal, said the company is looking at upgrading its carriage and operations to meet the increased demand, but it will not be picking up flights into or out of Qualicum Beach.

Boothroyd told The NEWS that Pacific Coastal Airlines won’t be flying out of Qualicum Beach Airport.

“We are not taking over that route. That route is closed,” Boothroyd said.

Boothroyd said the smallest aircraft with Pacific Coastal Airlines is a 19-seat aircraft, adding there wouldn’t be enough passengers from the Qualicum Beach route to make that work.

Orca Airways had merged with Calgary-based Integra Air several months ago for financial reasons, but Andrew Naysmith, former president of Orca Airways, said he wasn’t seeing eye-to-eye with Integra officials.

“That’s when I approached Pacific Coastal. I know they are a more family-oriented business,” said Naysmith.

Orca Airways had previously flown out of Vancouver, Victoria, Qualicum Beach and Tofino. Boothroyd told Black Press that flights to Tofino would continue and that capacity would rise.

“I can tell you that we already had planned, on May 1, to have the larger 30- or 34-seat Saab aircraft on the route (to Tofino) every day,” Boothroyd said. “Now with this new demand we are looking at adding more capacity. We will be upping our scheduled service to number of flights. We just haven’t got that in a box yet because we just came to this agreement.”

Naysmith said that Pacific Coastal has graciously taken care of most of the Orca ground crew in Tofino and Vancouver.

“It’s a big thing for me to step down, but I’m very excited that Tofino, the place that I love, is going to be supported from now probably forever more,” said Naysmith.

As for people who have already booked flights to or from Qualicum Beach Airport, Naysmith said staff is working with other airlines to get passengers on a flight or also refunding passengers to help get their money back.

Passengers who were already booked on Orca Airways can visit www.pacificcoastal.com/orca-airways.

— NEWS staff, Black Press

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