Passengers scramble after PAL Airlines suspends flights from Halifax to Charlottetown

From CBC News – link to source story

‘I booked quite some time ago and was almost ready to start packing’

CBC News · Posted: Nov 03, 2021

Frances Taggart of Dartmouth says she was hoping to visit her her son over Christmas. (Robert Short/CBC News)

Some PAL Airlines passengers have been left scrambling to make alternate arrangements after the company suspended its scheduled flight service into the Charlottetown Airport.

“I’m older now and I have back problems and I have leg problems and so driving isn’t as easy as it used to be, so I heard about PAL Airlines and thought, ‘well, let’s try this,'” said 80-year-old Frances Taggart of Dartmouth, N.S.

“I booked quite some time ago and was almost ready to start packing.”

Taggart had reserved a seat on a direct flight between Halifax and Charlottetown. She was hoping to visit her son over Christmas. 

“It’s been difficult with COVID, haven’t seen him as much as I used to,” she said. 

Her packing is on hold as Taggart said she learned earlier this week that her flight had been cancelled. 

“I did phone the airline and they told me that, no, they weren’t flying into P.E.I. anymore.” 

Hoping for return

In fact, it’s not just P.E.I.

PAL Airlines has also suspended all flights between New Brunswick and Halifax.

“We are encouraged by our initial experience in the Charlottetown market and will look for opportunities to return in the future,” the company said in a statement to CBC News. 

“PAL Airlines has the ability to add capacity as we see demand developing.”

Airport officials say they are are optimistic about next year. Airlines are already talking about adding extra flights next summer. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC News)

The airline had just begun flying into the province two months ago, and the CEO of the Charlottetown Airport Authority said he is keeping his fingers crossed that it will be back next summer. 

“We had hoped to see PAL Airlines operate year-round,” said Doug Newson. 

“I think the flight did reasonably well in the summer months, but I think they looked at advance booking going into fall and winter and just decided … that they would suspend those services.”

It’s been a challenging 19 months for the airport, whose traffic dropped more than 90 per cent at the peak of the pandemic. Fortunately, Newson said the loss of PAL Airlines should have a minimal impact on the airport’s bottom line.

“We are starting to see recovery,” said Newson. “I can tell you there’s a lot of optimism for spring, summer of 2022.” 

‘I’ll take the bus’

As for Taggart, she said she looked at other flights but, unfortunately, she would have to fly through Toronto or Montreal to get to P.E.I. and it would cost her upwards of $2,000.  

“My only other option was to drive, which I’d rather not do, or to take the bus,” she said.

And although Taggart is no stranger to that bus trip she said it’s not ideal.

“It’s crowded. There’s very little legroom. As I said, I have back problems and I am currently on the list for a hip replacement and getting on and off buses and being cramped for that long is difficult.”

But, she said she’ll take the bus “and hope for the best.” 

With files from Wayne Thibodeau