By Heidi Bevington-Equipment and communication problems have significantly reduced Air Canada’s freight service to the islands since mid-February.
Stephen Foster of Port Air Cargo said he’s never seen inbound freight service so bad in the three and a half years he’s had the business, although outbound service has been fine for freight like lab tests which are shipped off the islands.
Air Canada flies a 50 seat Dash 8 300 into Sandspit once a day carrying passengers, luggage and freight, but since the middle of February there’s been less freight than usual because of high passenger loads and equipment problems, according to Air Canada spokesperson Angela Mah. Airmail and emergency medical supplies are supposed to have priority, but even they have been having trouble getting through.
The airplane normally carries freight in ‘seat packs’, containers that allow the freight to be safely stowed on empty passenger seats. The seat packs had to be replaced for some reason, Ms Mah said, although she wasn’t certain why. This has substantially reduced the amount of cargo the plane can carry.
“Airmail is coming in,” said postmaster Elizabeth Inkster at the Queen Charlotte post office. However, passengers and their luggage do have priority, so some days the mail hasn’t arrived.
Medical supplies didn’t make it to the islands the last week of February, said the islands’ health services administrator, Sue Beckermann, but it was a problem with Northern Health Authority’s courier rather than Air Canada.
The courier mislabled the medical supplies’ waybill, so Air Canada didn’t realize what they were. The Queen Charlotte pharmacy notified NHA and Air Canada immediately when the supplies didn’t arrive, but it took a couple of days to sort out the snafu. Finally, the supplies were flown to Prince Rupert and then carried over to Masset by North Pacific Seaplanes at Air Canada’s expense, said Ms Beckermann. This was a one time only event, unrelated to Air Canada’s seat pack problem.
Air Canada expects to have regular freight service resume in the third week of March when the new seat packs arrive.
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