Gulf Island Seaplanes | Use Our Experience to Save You Time
“We’re proud of what we have built. The business can grow, we have a great team and incredibly satisfied customers. It feels good but as a business owner, you still have to be ready for change. And COVID hit that home for our sector.” – Alison Evans, co-owner
Silva Bay is located on the east side of Gabriola Island, a safe haven nestled by islands that help break the Salish Sea storms. This quintessential yet unique west coast bay is stunning and home to Gulf Island Seaplanes. I have flown with Gulf Island Seaplanes many times. The hospitality, customer service and communication has always been excellent but I wanted to get to know more about the business and the owners that have a passion for flying. I sat down to a zoom call with them in June 2021. First their back story, the history of the business. I asked Sean and Alison Evans how it all began and what lead up to Gulf Island Seaplanes starting in 2014.
How It Started
“I didn’t want to be far from home with a young family and as a pilot that is always a real possibility, so when the opportunity came we took it. Gulf Island Seaplanes was born.” – Sean Evans, co-owner/pilot
Sean was flying for Tofino Air and one of his regular posts was Silva Bay, Gabriola BC. He described the vibe of the Gabriola run like a friendly place where everyone takes a genuine interest in each other. Friendly morning coffee chats helped to form a community between pilots and passengers. When the opportunity to purchase the Gabriola route arose, they went for it and Gulf Island Seaplanes was born. Sean and Allison kept that thread of community going and their genuine interest in their staff and passengers shows with their level of service.
“Honestly you are only as good as your team. So why wouldn’t you invest in those relationships.” -Sean Evans, co-owner/pilot
Gulf Island Seaplanes is composed of 7 team members and a fleet of 3 aircraft (2 Beavers and a Caravan… could be a band name!). Their long-term employees are involved in the business discussions and are asked for their input. The lines of communication are always open and they want to create an enjoyable workplace for all.
Plans For The Future
When asked further about growth and what their vision or goal was in business, they indicated that while growth itself is part of the goal, steering the evolution of the business is really where their focus is. Sean, Allison and the team had already begun planning for a “Gabriola Getaway” promotion when COVID came, impacting their regular service big time. The opportunity to speed up the evolution of Gulf Island Seaplanes was suddenly upon them! They are working with other local businesses to create a richer visitor experience, all with an off-season focus, which is in perfect harmony with the Chamber’s “turning the off season ON” marketing plan for 2021/22. Watch for packaged getaways that will connect visitors to the island in new ways!
“We are open to ideas, so talk to us – we can be utilized for safe, fast and secure transportation in a wide region and for a variety of needs. From people to animals to equipment to product, to papers. We can transport it. “ – Alison Evans, co-owner
Current offerings include regular flight service to YVR from Silva Bay PLUS shipping/cargo services and both corporate and pleasure charters. For corporate charters think; construction, engineering projects and the Provincial Ministries who need transport around the coast. Your cost and time is balanced by flying when there is no road travel or sailing waits for ferries. If you are local, think out of the box for what you need to get or receive from the mainland. The customer service agents at Gulf Island Seaplanes will figure out a way to fly what you need to Gabriola and the cost will be minimal for the peace of mind.
I had to ask them about the craziest thing they have flown over the Salish Sea and I’m pretty sure Sean mumbled something about not being able to say, but he did give me some good runner up stories. Like flying 200 baby turkeys or a very large boa constrictor snake! Not to mention the countless animal wildlife rescues of seals and eagles. When talking about their titles and roles in the business, it was clear that their focus lies in their partnership, their team relationship building and their customer service. The roles and the titles blur a bit, allowing the team to get things done with communication, care and a willingness to listen. I think that is what makes Gulf Island Seaplanes a fun environment to work and travel with! Except maybe when it’s blowing 30 knots into the bay and everyone is seasick in the Office HQ on the dock.
Gulf Island Seaplanes is proudly a family owned & Indigenous owned company.
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Written by Julie Sperber, Executive Director, Gabriola Chamber