True test of landing limits to come during fall weather

'The Comox Valley Airport can once again offer the kind of all-weather capability that travellers expect'

Comox Valley Airport CEO Fred Bigelow is not only anticipating the changing seasons, he’s genuinely looking forward to it.

In June, the Comox Valley Airport (YQQ) announced the lowering of landing limits to a minimum instrument approach height of 250 feet, from a previous minimum height of 500 feet. The new standards will further reduce cancellations and diversions during poor weather conditions.

“We are absolutely thrilled with this decision,” said Bigelow at the time. “The Comox Valley Airport can once again offer the kind of all-weather capability that travellers expect.”

Reaction was positive at the time of the announcement. The true test is on the horizon, however, as the change of seasons draws near.

Bigelow knows that his clientele is awaiting that first socked-in weather system, to see how much of a difference it really makes.

“If you have lived on the Island, particularly north of Nanaimo, for any reasonable period, then it is likely that either you or someone you know has experienced a delay or cancellation out of YQQ due to the landing restrictions that were previously in effect,” he said last week. “But I can confidently say that we are once again one of the most reliable airports in the province.”

Bigelow understands the past frustrations felt by the local flying community and knows that there are some who have changed their travel routines because of it. The airport has launched a social media campaign to encourage local residents to share the information, and to win back any passengers the airport might have lost due to the former regulations.

“We know that there are some people who ‘voted with their feet’ so to speak – we know our passenger numbers have been affected,” he said. “What we want is to ensure that everyone knows about the new regulations.

“We are shouting our message from the rooftops. Whether you shout about it, talk about it or tweet about it, we are asking for your assistance to keep our airport contributing to Northern Vancouver Island’s bottom line.”

Bigelow’s confidence in the regulation improvements are iterated in the support shown by its largest business partner, Westjet, which is increasing its number of direct flights to and from Calgary in 2015. As of January, there will be one additional flight per day to Calgary (at 6 a.m.) as well as a 9:10 p.m. arrival from Calgary.

This new service ensures a minimum of three daily non-stop departures from Comox to Calgary at any time of the year.

“This additional year-round, daily flight to Calgary will open up about 14 WestJet markets that were previously not served from Comox in at least one direction, including popular sunspots like Varadero and Cabo San Lucas,” said Bigelow.