Olympic security will delay Masset-Vancouver flights

  • Mar. 11, 2009 10:00 a.m.

By Heather Ramsay–Flights between Masset and other rural areas will be delayed, some even grounded, during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Quentin Smith, president of Pacific Coastal Airlines, says flights from Masset will have to stop at Port Hardy where passengers will be put through security before heading on towards Vancouver between January 29, 2010 and March 24, 2010. The rules come from the RCMP’s Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit, he says, and the plans have been quietly discussed over the last couple of years. But neither airlines nor travellers were aware of what would be in store for passengers until NDP MLA Katrine Conroy brought up the question of what impact security measures will have on rural BC in the Legislature March 9. “It surprised everyone,” he said. Pacific Coastal will be most affected, says Mr. Smith, as it serves many small communities that don’t have federal security screening (CATSA) in place, including Masset, Anahim Lake, Bella Bella, Bella Coola, Klemtu, Powell River and Trail. He said CATSA is going to put a screening facility into Port Hardy to cover the two-month period, but he has not heard of any similar plans for Masset. At this point, he says, the biggest inconvenience for Masset passengers will be the added time – an estimated 45 minutes – it will take to descend towards Port Hardy, land, and get everybody and their baggage out of the plane and through security. “I believe there should be compensation,” he said. The rules will increase the duration of the flight and operating costs for the company, he said. “It is not realistic to raise fares and I don’t think Pacific Coastal should bear the costs,” he said. He’s approaching the federal government’s Heritage Department, which he understands is the appropriate body to go to. Mr. Smith said this will be the highest security Vancouver has ever seen. “It seems like a lot, but I’m not going second guess whether they are right or wrong.” Mr. Smith thinks another solution could be that the RCMP provide security clearance in communities that don’t have the proper equipment. Rather than provide compensation to companies, resources could be spent in Masset that way. North Coast MLA Gary Coons also spoke on the matter in the Legislature. He says the security measure, which could result in increased fares and long delays for, is another example of the province’s lack of concern for outlying areas. “The Campbell government is doing nothing to ensure that every community in BC has a chance to benefit from the Olympics,” he said