WestJet and Air Canada offer discounts to travellers affected by B.C. wildfires

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      Opponents of measures to combat climate change often argue that environmental regulations hurt the economy. But climate change itself is already taking a heavy toll on B.C. businesses.

      Wildfires burning across the province this week have led to flight delays and cancellations at several regional airports, and that's a blow to towns serviced by those transit centres.

      The thick haze that has settled over much of the south of the province has interrupted services at Kelowna International Airport, Penticton Regional Airport, and the West Kootenay Airport, according to CBC News.

      Flights in and out of Vancouver International Airport so-far remain unaffected by the fires, despite smoke setting over Metro Vancouver for several weeks now.

      Both Air Canada and WestJet are offering deals for flights in and out of airports in areas of B.C. that are affected by the fires.

      "Because of the forest fires affecting areas of British Columbia, we understand that you may want to make alternate travel arrangements," reads a July 16 message on Air Canada's website. "If you currently have a reservation, Air Canada has implemented a policy that makes it possible for you to make voluntary changes to your itinerary." The deals described there have since been repeatedly extended and, at the time of writing, are available to travellers with flights booked for up to August 22.

      "If you are scheduled to travel during the affected period, you may contact Air Canada Reservations to change your flight free of charge, to another date between now and August 31, 2018, subject to availability in the cabin you originally purchased," reads an update.

      "If you do not have a ticket and are seeking to fly from Kamloops, Kelowna, Penticton, Castlegar, Cranbrook, Prince George or Terrace as a result of the state of emergency, Air Canada is providing a 25% discount from these communities to help facilitate travel to any destination within BC."

      WestJet is offering similar deals.

      "If you, or anyone you know are trying to travel within B.C. due to the wildfires, WestJet is offering 25% off base fares between any two cities in B.C. on Econo (Lowest), Econo, Flex, Plus (Lowest) and Plus (Flexible) fare classes," reads a message on its website. "This applies to walk-up fares as well. Also, WestJet has implemented flexible change and cancel rules."

      As of August 20, there were 54 "wildfires of note" burning across British Columbia. That's a significant number.

      B.C. declared a provincial state of emergency and requested assistance from the federal government on August 15.

      This summer, firefighters spread thin throughout the province are battling fires that once would have been described as unusually large and persistent. Unfortunately, such natural disasters are increasingly the norm for B.C. and for much of the world.

      B.C.'s 2017 wildfire season was the worst in generations. It "dwarfed the historic records for area burned in British Columbia at well over a million hectares, or 12,000 square kilometres," reads a July 2017 government media release. "The effects on people, wildlife and our forest economy will be felt for many years to come.

      "Consider also that 2017 was the driest year ever recorded in many parts of B.C.—by a significant margin, according to Environment Canada," it continues.

      That July 2017 release from the provincial government notes that year's fires were due, "in large part," to climate change.

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