It has been a turbulent sophomore season for Revelstoke Air.
The charter flight service, which is run through a joint partnership with the City of Revelstoke, Revelstoke Mountain Resort Limited Partnership, Revelstoke Accommodation Association and Revelstoke Connection Limited, has been offering flights between Revelstoke and Vancouver three to four times a week.
The service began on Jan. 12 and will wrap up for 2018 on March 16.
Over the season, 64 flights with a total of 960 seats (15 seats per flight both ways) have been offered.
As of mid-February, 534 seats sold for $122,900.
In a report to City Council, Nicole Fricot, director of community economic development, said that 241 seats were still for sale as of Feb. 19.
The occupancy for the flights, she wrote, is 55 per cent.
It’s estimated that the flight service will cost $242,000 to operate, based on 55 per cent occupancy.
The City of Revelstoke has agreed to pay a maximum of $89,800 to Revelstoke Connection if the service runs at a loss.
In August, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District committed $90,400 from the Economic Opportunity Fund to cover the City of Revelstoke’s contribution to the charter service.
Of the 20 flights that had been offered by Feb. 19, 11 were diverted, while nine were able to land at the Revelstoke Airport.
When flights are diverted, they land in either Kamloops or Kelowna and a shuttle brings outbound passengers to the airport, picking up inbound guests and bringing them back to Revelstoke.
“Over the course of the season quite a few of the shuttles while on route to pick up and drop off customers have been stuck behind avalanche control or accidents on the highway,” wrote Fricot. “As a result, it has taken many hours for guests to make it through to Revelstoke.”
City staff believe the number of flight diversions and long driving times on the shuttle have “negatively impacted the interest in the air service and the ability to market the service.”
On Everything Revelstoke, the flights are marketed as “City to Slope in one hour.”
After the flights had an 84 per cent occupancy in the first year, the trips were doubled for 2018, going to 32 round trips from 16.
In January, the first flight of the season was diverted to Kamloops due to poor visibility at the Revelstoke Airport. The plane flew over the valley before proceeding to Kamloops. It meant that the four passengers waiting to board in Revelstoke hopped on a shuttle bus for Kamloops and the 14 who were expecting to land beneath the Revelstoke Mountain Resort slope had a long bus ride after landing.
In Revelstoke Air’s first season last year, four of the 15 flights were diverted.
According to Fricot’s report, the partners will be meeting this month to discuss the “future potential” of the air charter service in Revelstoke. They will also talk to air charter service companies in addition to Pacific Coast (which is the current operator) to see “if there is any appetite for providing scheduled flight service to Revelstoke for 2019.”
The final flight of 2018 is scheduled for March 16.