Pacific Coastal won’t be returning to Bella Coola for regular service until the community gives the green light. The company, who suspended all daily flights to Bella Coola in March, had orginally posted a June 1 reopening date but that has since been withdrawn and a new date has not yet been determined.
Other communities such as Williams Lake will see their Pacific Coastal service resume on June 1 with three flights per week but smaller, remote communities such as Bella Coola, Bella Bella, Anahim Lake, Klemtu and Haida Gwaii have chosen not to reopen to air travel just yet.
“We originally left June 1 in as a review point and we are starting to see some limited service resume in certain communities,” said Pacific Coastal President Quentin Smith. “We are working with every community on an individual basis.”
Smith said that the company is working with local and first nations governments in Bella Coola and the central and north coast to ensure that communities are comfortable before they begin services again.
“We are working on a plan that will give these communities the level of comfort they need to reopen to air travel,” said Smith. “We’re doing our best to mitigate any potential that COVID-19 may be brought in.”
The airline is currently operating a daily service under contract with Vancouver Coastal Health to bring in medical supplies, personnel, and take out lab samples. The company has said it will take at least two weeks once a reopening date is determined to get regular service up and running again and that service will be determined based on demand, stating that a “flexible” approach is needed.
As for the rumour that Pacific Coastal may not return to Bella Coola after COVID-19, Smith said that is not the case.
“We have deep roots in Bella Coola as that is where Pacific Coastal began,” said Smith. “We want to come back but we want to do it respectfully and with the support and approval of the community.”