VCSOA gains support 

Mayors, tourism associations back alternative docking option in Vancouver Harbour

After launching a campaign to identify a more cost effective docking solution in Vancouver's downtown harbour, the Vancouver Commercial Seaplane Operators Association (VCSOA) has found support among mayors of British Columbia's coastal cities and tourism associations.

Faced with a future $12 levy per person for flights arriving and departing from a $22 million Ledcor-owned facility currently under construction west of Canada Place, floatplane operators are proposing an alternative solution. By building and running a cooperative dock just east of Canada Place and sharing the location with the current occupant, Helijet, floatplane operators could avoid charging the extra fee to their customers.

"Good on them for the effort and the thought and if it's done well it could really make a lot of sense," said Stephen Regan, president of the Council of Tourism Associations of B.C.

"Our regular airport is one of the most expensive, tickets and taxes can be significant so it already costs a more for folks to fly here from international markets, more so than maybe Seattle.

"So we already have some challenges there and at some point it gets to be too much of a burden so we certainly empathize with these operators that there are already lots of fees and prices on the customer.

"We know there is some price sensitivity and $24 per round trip is not an insignificant amount."

Though Port Metro Vancouver, the governing body which could grant approval for the project, has been open about concerns with the proposed location for being too congested VCSOA members, which include Whistler Air, Harbour Air, West Coast Air, Seair Seaplanes, Tofino Air, Saltspring Air, Tyax Air, and Kenmore Air, say the chosen spot is not only safe for landing and take-off, but makes more sense in terms of the travelling public. Regan agrees: "The intermodal nature of it could make a lot of sense with the terminus of the Canada Line and the Seabus within walking distance as well as the Millennium Line puts a lot of passengers in close proximity.

"That's not to say that the convention centre was that much of a stretch, but sometimes in travelling distances the difference between 40 meters and 400 meters can be significant."

After meeting with seaplane operators this week, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he sees merit in the idea of a terminal connecting directly to the Canada Line and other forms of public transit.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said the operators' proposal for their own terminal near other transportation links makes sense.

"We need to have an affordable float plane industry," Fortin said in a press release adding that the levy would mean a "substantive increase" to fares.




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