‘We’re just happy to be talking about growth and recovery and people travelling for a change’
Wayne Thibodeau · CBC News · Posted: Aug 02, 2021
Flair Airlines touched down at the Charlottetown Airport for the first time Monday, with a new non-stop service to Toronto’s Pearson Airport.
This is the third new flight, and the second new airline, for the Island’s airport in less than a week.
WestJet, which has been operating in the capital city airport for 15 years, launched its first direct flight from Calgary to Charlottetown and Newfoundland-based PAL Airlines introduced a brand new service between Halifax and Charlottetown.
Stephen Jones, president and CEO of Flair Airlines, was on the tarmac to welcome his airline’s first arrival on Prince Edward Island.
Flair had hoped to launch its service to P.E.I. sooner but the pandemic put a hold on its expansion plans.
“It’s been brutal for the whole industry and Flair is no exception, but we’re growing our way out of it,” said Jones.
“We’re really seeing a rebound in traffic at the moment.”
Not only was it a new airline, but a brand new Boeing aircraft that landed on Monday.
There were 174 passengers on the first flight into Charlottetown
Doug Newson, CEO of the Charlottetown Airport, said the addition of Flair is another sign of recovery for the airline industry and for the Island’s beleaguered tourism industry.
Newson said he’s not surprised by the speed of the airline industry’s rebound.
“We always knew … that there’s a lot of pent-up demand, a lot of visitors here that are coming to see their family and friends that haven’t been home for a couple of years in a lot of cases,” said Newson. “So we knew as soon as P.E.I. opened up for visitors outside of Atlantic Canada the airlines would come back and the flights would be busy.”
‘It’s nowhere close to what we’re used to’
Newson said he believes next year could be a banner year for the airport and tourism on the Island.
“We’re just happy to be talking about growth and recovery and people travelling for a change,” said Newson.
P.E.I. Tourism Minister Matthew Mackay, who was also on hand for the initial Flair Airlines flight, said the new flights are huge for the tourism industry, which was devastated by the pandemic. He said the industry is slowly starting to recover.
“It’s nowhere close to what we’re used to,” said MacKay, noting the province usually sees 1.6 million visitors annually.
“We’re not there, but we’re certainly in good position here, we’ve got a lot of traffic, a lot of visitors coming in, a lot of accommodations are full and we’re really hoping for a big fall season as well.”
Flair will fly Toronto to Charlottetown Mondays and Fridays and Charlottetown to Toronto Mondays and Fridays.
Even with the new airlines, airport officials say the airport is only operating at about half of its summer capacity.
‘We will fly where the demand is’
Jones said he expects his airline, which bills itself as Canada’s only independent low-fare airline, will have a long history in P.E.I.
“I hope it’s going to be year-round,” said Jones.
“I mean we will fly where the demand is so we will grow our network to where people want to fly.”