Harbour Air buys Salt Spring Air, floating terminal taking shape

Harbour Air is adding Salt Spring Air to its stable as it plans for more flights and increased passenger capacity to serve the Gulf island.

“We’ll be running the Salt Spring Air brand. We will be keeping all the people,” Randy Wright, Harbour Air senior vice-president, said Wednesday.

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Salt Spring Air has 14 employees.

Harbour Air bought Salt Spring Air from its group of partners and will incorporate the business into its own operations as of Dec. 1, said Wright.

Salt Spring Air co-owner Philip Reece will continue as an operations executive and remain as the Salt Spring representative, Wright said.

“Salt Spring Island needs to continue developing reliable and safe air connections that meet the island’s future needs,” said Reece.

Salt Spring Air flights will continue between Ganges Harbour and Maple Bay, as well as to downtown Vancouver and Vancouver International Airport’s south terminal.

Harbour Air intends to enhance existing service by using larger aircraft in peak times, Wright said.

A Salt Spring Air de Havilland Beaver, which seats five, will continue to be utilized. Harbour Air will bring in its turbo-Beaver, which seats seven, and its turbine single Otter, which seats 14, for some Salt Spring flights, Wright said. Larger aircraft will not only increase passenger capacity, but also reduce flight times, he said.

“There are more people [living] on the island, and more people are going there in the summer months,” Wright said.

As tourism grows, new resorts have opened on Salt Spring, Wright said. “We see an opportunity to enhance service.”

Greg McDougall, Harbour Air chief executive officer, said Salt Spring Island is a “world-class destination and Salt Spring Air is part of its success. We are committed to the island and Salt Spring Air’s proven service to island residents.”

Salt Spring Air passengers will be able to access discounted rates on Harbour Air’s other routes.

Harbour Air carries about 420,000-plus passengers on 60,000 flights each year using its 34 aircraft. It has 400 staff, with 100 on Vancouver Island, Wright said. Harbour Air also owns Westcoast Air.

Meanwhile, construction is underway on a $4-million floating terminal with a wave-shaped roof that will be towed into Victoria’s Inner Harbour in early March. A partnership of Harbour Air and Washington state’s Kenmore Air will see the two-storey terminal operate under a 20-lease lease with the City of Victoria. Victoria Float Plane Terminal Ltd., a group that includes Harbour Air and Kenmore Air, will move the terminal to the city’s water lots in front of 950 and 1000 Wharf St., adjacent to Ship Point.

The new terminal, being built up-Island, is expected to be open by April, Wright said.

Piles will first be driven into the seabed, he said. A planned “slow-tow” will take about 20 hours.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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