Saturday, February 10, 2018

Integra Air grounded in the Hat

August 2016 Integra Air launched its daily scheduled flights to Edmonton in a press conference at Medicine Hat Regional Airport.

Integra Air has stopped its scheduled flights from Medicine Hat to Edmonton.

“Today is the last flight for a period of time. I don’t know how long that period of time is going to be,” Medicine Hat base manager Adam Kiess said on Friday.

“Terrible news,” said Mayor Ted Clugston. “We get Integra and then WestJet, and then we lose Integra.”

A combination of things factored into the decision to stop the twice daily flights Monday to Friday.

“The lack of clientele — the numbers are just not sustainable — and the airport closure is another one” said Kiess.

The Medicine Hat airport will be closed completely for 24 days in May to rehabilitate the main runway and taxiway pavement surfaces.

The airport closure will be harsh for Integra Air, said CEO John Macek in November last year when the closure was revealed.

Integra’s pilots have been re-tasked to other areas of the company, said Kiess.

Integra has a number of employees whose work involves refueling aircraft and other ramp services. While the airport is closed there would be no need for these services and no revenue at all. At this stage it is unclear how those employees will be affected.

“We are still trying to sort that out,” said Kiess.

Integra launched its scheduled service in August 2016 and Clugston was there for the announcement.

“I do think at the time I said I hope we use it or we’ll lose it,” said Clugston.

The mayor also felt Integra losing the air ambulance contract would have been a factor. There were fixed costs spread over a couple business revenue streams compared to one.

“Failing to ensure a comprehensive RFP (request for proposals) process for southeast Alberta fixed-wing ambulance service, that recognized local impact and autonomy, potentially added to Integra’s decision,” claims Drew Barnes, MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat.

Integra Air has almost completed a new hangar for items used in refueling and de-icing aircraft.

“The ground services side of the company is still here,” said Kiess.

Clugston is not sure how significant the airport closure in May is.

“I’m sure it weighed in their decision but I would bet though they gave it a good year-and-a-half, and if the numbers weren’t there they weren’t there,” said Clugston.

The decision to close the airport for several weeks was made after consulting with Air Canada and Alberta’s fixed-wing air ambulance. To remain open would have reduced the runway length temporarily and the rehabilitation work would have taken much longer to complete.

Companies such as Super T Aviation make a significant contribution to the whole community through charters and flight training.

Les Little has been in business at the airport for more than 53 years, during which time he’s being paying taxes and utilities and providing employment, said Terri Super, president of Super T Aviation.

“We’re not even subject to any industry consultation with the city … regarding this airport closure,” said Super, who believes with some restrictions it would have been possible to operate.

Super T is considering a satellite flight training centre in Bow Island for May. It will require approval from the town and Transport Canada, said Super. Students will have to be willing to drive to Bow Island for flight training.

“It is not good for anybody,” said Super.

She says some form of compensation should have been provided for businesses at the airport who cannot operate while the airport is closed.

Super T in Medicine Hat, not operable locally while the airport is closed, will have to continue paying for utilities. There should be some form of compensation, said Super.

Closing the airport is the equivalent of closing the whole of downtown to all forms of traffic for 24 days, said Coun. Phil Turnbull in November. He felt the city should consider compensation.

The decision was ultimately made not to compensate. 

Original article can be found here ➤

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