Small Canadian commuter startup Cascadia Air (CBF, Penticton) has announced non-stop scheduled flights between Vancouver International and Penticton as it expands into the British Columbia interior, with plans to introduce more service routes in the next year.

Flights to Vancouver were launched on August 30. The carrier will offer direct flights on the route throughout the week and weekends on a limited scheduled basis using Piper (twin piston) PA31-350s until such time as consumer demand warrants adding more schedules and larger aircraft, the company said in a statement. According to the Canadian aircraft register, the company owns four more Piper Aircraft; three PA 31-350s and one PA 32-260. To accommodate social distancing during the pandemic, its aircraft are currently spaced for a maximum of six passengers.

President and Chief Operating Officer, Jeremy Barrett, said the carrier had been focused on building strong community ties with its destinations during the pandemic. “This also meant participating however we can, in the economic development of those communities, and to extend the relationship beyond just another air service provider in their area."

Cascadia Air obtained its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) to conduct scheduled services in February of 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic. Barrett said it has since pursued economic development partnerships and provided flights for essential services throughout Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii instead of reducing its newly formed operations or retracting from its business.

As economic revitalisation becomes a priority for most regions impacted by the pandemic, community relations it developed have become strong partnerships for its current and future services, the company said, adding it would add more service routes in 2021 and 2022.

Cascadia Air is the fourth carrier to service Penticton’s airport, which saw its Air Canada service to Vancouver suspended in January due to low demand, travel restrictions, and quarantine rules. That left only WestJet (WS, Calgary) offering flights to Calgary before Pacific Coastal Airlines (8P, Vancouver International) landed to fill the void left by Canada’s largest airline. But after a federal bailout, Air Canada (AC, Montréal Trudeau) resumed its regional routes and air travellers now have four options to choose from.

The city says regular flights are critical to ensuring the airport remains a viable option, and not only for visitors. “We have big growth in remote workers who have recently moved to Penticton and are looking to host meetings in those major cities that these airlines connect to,” said Carly Lewis, Penticton’s economic development manager.