Castlegar airport is a pretty quiet place, that is until about five minutes before a plane is due to land. Everyone looks to the sky and waits for the bussing of the twin prop flights from either Vancouver or Calgary.
There are only two destinations from this airport, East or West, and in winter you’re lucky to catch a flight to or from either of them with the way this valley closes up in Winter.
But my post today is less about Castlegar Airport, and more about the way we rely on air travel, and what this means as the world spirals beyond peak oil…
What the airlines are doing to stay "aflight" is raising prices and cutting back flights to make sure those price hikes stick. You know all about the raising-prices-and-fees part (American Airlines was the final airline to announce $25 to check a second bag); but what might be more nefarious for many travelers, especially those in smaller cities with regional airports, is what one airline analyst tagged as an inevitable "mother of all capacity cuts" that will occur as legacy airlines begin to merge.
Deciding where to cut routes and cities is fairly easy; airline bean-counters simply sort their city-pair spreadsheets by profitability, and those at the bottom are first on the hit list. Naturally, they look at the number of passengers who travel in and out of the cities in question (although, interestingly enough, if there are too few passengers, smaller airlines may qualify for federal subsidies — during 2006, for example, Department of Transportation figures indicate subsidized Big Sky Airlines averaged just two passengers a day on its Lewiston to Billings, Mont., route). Unfortunately, even those subsidies weren’t enough to keep Big Sky from going bust.
Seeing Air Canada, (ok, ok "Jazz") is the only scheduled commercial carrier to Castlegar, we can bet that there would be some provincial or federal support for maintaining a service? Don’t be so sure, airlines, even federally supported ones, have gone under before, and we are coming to an unprecedented crisis., with cheap fuel scarcity and no viable technological alternatives on the horizon, (hybrid airplanes would just be too heavy with today’s technology, and solar planes can barely carry one person, let alone a passenger!).
How much do you rely on air travel? Would airline route cuts impact your business? How about the tourism that uses planes to get to your city?