How safe is flying during the pandemic?

News from CBC News – link to story

Canadian airlines have dropped physical distancing on planes — a top safety measure, says B.C. health minister

Rafferty Baker · CBC News · Posted: Jul 03, 2020

The airline industry was among the first hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, as governments issued travel advisories, encouraging people to stay at home. Now WestJet and Air Canada have dropped physical distancing measures on flights and claim a combination of other measures will keep passengers and crew safe. (Eric Foss/CBC)

Passengers flying into YVR were alerted to six possible exposures aboard airplanes in June while Canadian airlines have now dropped in-flight physical distancing measures.

So how concerned should people be about flying?

Dr. Srinivas Murthy is an infection disease expert and associate professor at the University of British Columbia. He said he would weigh the risks and benefits of taking a flight before he set out.

“The thing we know about how the virus is transmitted is that in enclosed spaces, without ventilation, with many individuals indoors seems to be a high-risk zone for transmission,” said Murthy.

‘In theory it’s a reasonably high risk area’

“Whether that translates to airplanes, it’s difficult to say,” he said. “We haven’t seen a lot of airplane-based transmission — that’s mostly because the airlines haven’t flown as much with as many people — but in theory it’s a reasonably high-risk area to be in.”

Dr. Srinivas Murthy, an associate professor at the department of pediatrics in the faculty of medicine at the University of British Columbia, says in theory airplanes are high-risk zones for COVID-19 transmission, but relatively few cases have occurred. (CBC)

Earlier this week, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix called on his federal counterparts and the airlines to reveal the evidence that it was safe to drop physical distancing on flights.

On Thursday he seemed to soften his tone, but still stressed that of the various measures that can be taken to prevent the spread of the virus, physical distancing is at the top of the hierarchy.

“Physical distancing is something we preach here every day. Physical distancing saves lives and it’s important wherever you are,” Dix told reporters.

He said without that distance, people need to have discipline about wearing masks, washing hands and avoiding touching surfaces and faces.

‘You cannot travel if you are sick’

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, highlighted the need to keep sick people off planes — a responsibility shared by passengers and airlines, she said.

“You should not, you cannot travel if you are sick or if you’ve been in contact with people who have COVID-19,” said Henry.

She also said that it’s still a challenge for health officials to efficiently and effectively get in touch with everyone who was on flights when a COVID-19 case has surfaced.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry stressed on Thursday the importance of avoiding air travel if you have ay COVID-19 symptoms. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

On Thursday the B.C. Centre for Disease Control warned passengers on four flights that arrived at YVR in June they had potentially been exposed to COVID-19 — in addition to two other flights that month.

The agency asked people aboard the affected flights to self-isolate and monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days.

In the case of two of the flights, 14 days had already passed. For two others, the intended self-isolation period has nearly elapsed.

The BCCDC did not answer a question from CBC News on Thursday asking why the warning came long after the potential contact, saying only that people can find out about possible exposure on flights and other public places on the agency’s website.

Both WestJet and Air Canada defend the safety measures they’re taking to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are left to use a combination of approaches to mitigate risk as far as practical,” said a statement sent by Air Canada.

Both airlines highlighted their use of HEPA, or high-efficiency particulate air, filters, with WestJet claiming they remove “99.999 per cent of all airborne particles,” and Air Canada claiming they ensure complete changes of air every two to three minutes.

They have both been doing aircraft interior disinfecting between flights, with WestJet describing “fogging using a hydrogen peroxide-based solution.”

WestJet also highlighted mandatory pre-boarding temperature checks.

“It is noteworthy there have been no reports of outbreak clusters onboard individual flights during the COVID pandemic,” said the Air Canada statement.

2 injured in plane crash in Saint-Ours near Sorel, Que.

News from Global News – link to story

By Staff, The Canadian Press | Posted July 2, 2020

A small plane crashed in the Monteregie region on Thursday morning.
A small plane crashed in the Monteregie region on Thursday morning. Stephen C. Host/The Canadian Press.

Two people suffered serious injuries when their small plane crashed Thursday morning in Saint-Ours, Que., near Sorel in the Montérégie region.

It was police officers from the Pierre-De Saurel regional county municipality who reportedly answered the call around 9:45 a.m. on Thursday.

The aircraft crashed in a field along des Patriotes Road, and it reportedly took extraction equipment to get the two people out of the plane.

The Sûreté du Québec say the two suffered significant injuries, but their lives are not in danger.

Area firefighters were also called in as reinforcements since the fuel from the aircraft spilled at the scene of the crash.

The cause of the crash is unknown, and no details have been provided regarding the identities of the two injured people.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

France has reopened its borders to Canadian travellers

From Atout France Canada | 30 June 2020

On June 30, France and the other Member States of the European Union adopted a recommendation on the reopening of Europe’s external borders from July 1, 2020, to a first list of fourteen countries, including Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand, as well as China, subject to reciprocity. This list will be reviewed every two weeks.

In view of the satisfactory epidemiological evolution on European territory, new measures have been adopted following the decisions taken on June 15 with regards to the reopening of European borders (Schengen area) and the opening of borders to international visitors after July 1.

Image

The first countries eligible for this reopening are: Australia, Canada, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Thailand, Uruguay, three North African States (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia), two Eastern European States (Montenegro, Serbia) and Georgia.

The United States, Russia, Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are, at this stage, excluded from this list, as the situation of the Covid-19 pandemic is considered to be more serious there than in Europe. The reopening of borders with China is moreover suspended on the principle of reciprocity (China has not yet reopened its borders to European travellers).

As a reminder, the internal borders of the European Union – Schengen area reopened June 15 (and Spain’s on June 21). All health and security measures are being taken on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the border restrictions are lifted in the best possible conditions.

However, the British government (the United Kingdom being, in the post-Brexit transition period, still considered as an EU Member State) has decided to impose since June 8 a 2-week period quarantine on foreign travellers, therefore France is applying the rule of reciprocity until further notice. However, the 2-week period quarantine measure should evolve in the near-future.  

France was visited by 1.2 million Canadians in 2018.

More information on reopening and sanitary precaution’s in France can be found on France.fr.

DHL Aviation to Standardize Electronic Communication for Air Freight Transportation with Descartes’ Global Air Messaging Gateway

From Descartes Systems Group Inc.

WATERLOO, Ontario, June 29, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Descartes Systems Group (Nasdaq:DSGX) (TSX:DSG), the global leader in uniting logistics-intensive businesses in commerce, announced that Brussels-based DHL Aviation has selected Descartes’ Global Air Messaging Gateway as its preferred platform to standardize electronic messaging with its global customer base, including major freight-forwarding organizations, other airlines, postal service operators and express courier companies, as well as ground handling agents (GHAs).

DHL will also deploy Descartes Air Shipment Management (ASM)™ to simplify its electronic document management for air shipments, and Descartes AEI™, an on-demand solution, to collect, prepare and submit the required advance electronic information for global air cargo security filings to a growing range of countries worldwide.

Based upon the Descartes Global Logistics Network™ (Descartes GLN™), Descartes’ Global Air Messaging Gateway solutions help carriers, like DHL Aviation, speed connectivity to trading partners, monitor shipment status in real-time, and communicate timely status updates to forwarders, GHAs and consignees. An industry-leading solution for multimodal, inter-enterprise electronic data exchange, the Descartes GLN provides members with a wide array of value-added services that span the entire shipment management process including contract management, freight booking, shipment tracking, and security filings.

“We’re pleased to expand our relationship with DHL, adding DHL Aviation to the growing list of carriers using Descartes’ solutions to enhance air freight communication with supply chain participants,” said Jos Nuijten, VP of Network Integration Strategy at Descartes. “For over 20 years, Descartes has helped carriers across the globe shift to more electronic processes and we remain committed to advancing solutions to further automate and improve communications in the air cargo industry.”

About DHL Aviation

DHL Aviation represents the airline of DHL Express, a division of Deutsche Post DHL Group. The Group is the world’s leading logistics company. The Group connects people and markets and is an enabler of global trade. It aspires to be the first choice for customers, employees and investors worldwide. To this end, Deutsche Post DHL Group is focusing on growth in its profitable core logistics businesses and accelerating the digital transformation in all business divisions. The Group contributes to the world through sustainable business practices, corporate citizenship and environmental activities. By the year 2050, Deutsche Post DHL Group aims to achieve zero emissions logistics. Deutsche Post DHL Group is home to two strong brands: DHL offers a comprehensive range of parcel and international express service, freight transport, and supply chain management services, as well as e-commerce logistics solutions. Deutsche Post is Europe’s leading postal and parcel service provider. Deutsche Post DHL Group employs approximately 550,000 people in over 220 countries and territories worldwide. The Group generated revenues of more than 63 billion Euros in 2019. The logistics company for the world.

About Descartes

Descartes (Nasdaq:DSGX) (TSX:DSG) is the global leader in providing on-demand, software-as-a-service solutions focused on improving the productivity, performance and security of logistics-intensive businesses. Customers use our modular, software-as-a-service solutions to route, schedule, track and measure delivery resources; plan, allocate and execute shipments; rate, audit and pay transportation invoices; access global trade data; file customs and security documents for imports and exports; and complete numerous other logistics processes by participating in the world’s largest, collaborative multimodal logistics community. Our headquarters are in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada and we have offices and partners around the world.

New Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations now in force

From Canadian Transportation Agency 

GATINEAU, QC, June 25, 2020 /CNW/ – Starting today, persons with disabilities have new protections under the Canadian Transportation Agency’s (CTA) Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations (ATPDR).

The ATPDR require transportation service providers to:

  • ensure that aircraft, trains, ferries, buses and terminals (such as airports) are accessible by complying with specific technical requirements;
  • meet communication needs of travellers with disabilities;
  • provide accessible services; and
  • make border and security screening more accessible.

The ATPDR establish new, legally binding and enforceable requirements for accessible transportation, building on two older regulations and six codes, as well as best practices in Canada and around the world.

More information on the requirements is available on our website. The CTA has also developed extensive guidance materials, available in accessible formats. This guidance explains, in plain language, the requirements of the ATPDR. It also takes into account questions raised by stakeholders during consultations.

The final regulations reflect input received by the CTA from persons with disabilities and industry, including members of the CTA’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, as well as the general public during several rounds of consultation between 2016 and 2019.

The ATPDR are part of the CTA’s Regulatory Modernization Initiative (RMI), a review of all the regulations and guidelines the CTAadministers.

Quote

“Persons with disabilities have a fundamental right to travel that is as free of barriers as possible. The groundbreaking Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations will help protect this right – and advance our vision of making Canada’s national transportation system the most accessible in the world. The CTA will continue working with disability rights organizations and industry to translate this goal into reality.”

Scott Streiner, Chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency

Notice

Most provisions of the ATPDR – over 200 – are now in force. Due to the severe disruptions to the transportation sector caused by COVID-19, a handful of more technically or operationally complex provisions are being delayed to January 1, 2021. Finally, as planned, some more complex provisions are being phased-in over two years until 2022.

Another regulatory initiative related to accessible transportation is also underway. It would require transportation service providers to develop accessibility plans and reports based on the Accessible Canada Act (ACA). As well, further discussions will take place in the fall before developing requirements pertaining to small transportation service providers.

Reference material

Pilot injured in Puslinch, Ont. single-engine plane crash: OPP

News from Global News – link to story

By Matt Carty Global News | Posted June 23, 2020

OPP say a pilot was injured in a plane crash on Monday in Puslinch, Ont.
OPP say a pilot was injured in a plane crash on Monday in Puslinch, Ont. Supplied

Wellington County OPP say a pilot suffered non-life-threatening injuries following a single-engine plane crash in Puslinch, Ont. on Monday morning.

Emergency crews were called to a field on the Puslinch-Flamborough Townline at around 11:35 a.m. for reports an plane crash.

Police say the two-seater plane experienced mechanical issues shortly after takeoff from a private runway and tried to turn around.

The OPP said the plane landed in a field and suffered “moderate damage” and the 63-year-old pilot was taken to hospital.

The Transportation Safety Board was notified about the incident.Small plane lands on Quebec highway

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Canadian Armed Forces members recovered from Stalker 22 crash identified

From National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

June 20, 2020 – Ottawa

On June 18, 2020, the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario identified the remains of four of the six Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members killed in the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter crash of April 29.

Remains of the following CAF members have been positively identified:

  • Captain Kevin Hagen, Pilot, originally from Nanaimo, British Columbia
  • Captain Maxime Miron-Morin, Air Combat Systems Officer, originally from Bécancour, Quebec
  • Sub-Lieutenant Matthew Pyke, Naval Warfare Officer, originally from Truro, Nova Scotia
  • Master Corporal Matthew Cousins, Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator, originally from Guelph, Ontario

Their remains were located and recovered during a combined CAF-United States Navy search and recovery operation conducted between May 25 and June 2. The families of all crew members lost in the accident have been notified.

Remains of Sub-Lieutenant Abbigail Cowbrough, a Marine Systems Engineering Officer originally from Toronto, Ontario, were previously identified shortly after the accident. Partial remains of Captain Brenden MacDonald, a Pilot originally from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, were originally identified on May 9; no further remains were found in the recovery operations.

Over the coming days, our fallen who have now been positively identified, will be released to the families so they can be brought home. Ceremonial arrangements are being planned by the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force in consultation with the families, and will be communicated when available.

Members from Stalker 22
Starting from top left: Sub-Lieutenant Abbigail Cowbrough, a Marine Systems Engineering Officer; Sub-Lieutenant Matthew Pyke, Naval Warfare Officer; Master Corporal Matthew Cousins, Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator; Captain Maxime Miron-Morin, Air Combat Systems Officer; Captain Kevin Hagen, Pilot; Captain Brenden Ian MacDonald, Pilot.

Quotes

“On behalf of the entire extended Navy family, I continue to extend my deepest and most heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of our six fallen shipmates. I hope today’s news provides some comfort and closure to each of you. These have been dark days and these events have reminded us all of the perils of service at sea and in the skies above. The memories of our fallen – who they were; their devotion to shipmates and obvious desire to serve their home communities and country, reflective of a commitment to making life better for those around them – endure in our collective memory. It resonates with those of us still serving – representative of who we are and why we’re forever connected to our fallen shipmates. To our extended (currently serving, veterans, and our families) Navy and Air Force families who have endured so much these past weeks, and especially the ship’s company of the still deployed HMCS Fredericton, know that your compassion, courage, and resilience as you carry on, support one another, and forever carry in your memory love for our fallen and their families is nothing short of inspirational – it defines us.”

Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, Commander, Royal Canadian Navy

“To the families of our fallen members of Stalker 22, our hearts are with you and the entire RCAF team continues to mourn with you. In this period of sadness, we hope you are comforted by the fond memories of your loved ones as well as the outpouring of love and support from Canadians across the country. Our Maritime Helicopter community is a tightly knit group who also forms a unique bond with our Navy partners. Together, we’ll honour and remember the legacies of our fallen, while also standing behind those who will pick up their torch and carry on with the mission. My sincerest thanks to everyone who has worked tirelessly to bring our aviators and sailors home to Canada in a dignified manner that reflects the professionalism with which they served.”

Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger, Commander, Royal Canadian Air Force

Quick facts

  • EDT Hercules and the recovered remains arrived in Augusta Bay, Italy, on June 4, 2020, following the successful CAF-US Navy search operation.
  • Prior to departure from Italy to return to Canada, a dignified transfer of remains was conducted, overseen by Lieutenant-General Omer Lavoie, senior CAF representative in Europe. 
  • On arrival in Toronto on June 5, our fallen were welcomed back to Canada by Brigadier-General Conrad Mialkowski, Commander of Joint Task Force Central. Their remains were then transferred to the Coroner of Ontario for identification.
  • A Royal Canadian Air Force Flight Safety investigation into the circumstances of the accident is ongoing. As indicated in the investigators’ initial report, the investigation is currently focused on aircraft systems and human factors as possible causes of the crash.
  • On June 16th, the Commander of 1 Canadian Air Division, Lieutenant-General Alain Pelletier, lifted the operational pause on the CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter fleet. The return to flying operations follows a thorough risk assessment that outlined mitigation measures. 
  • The CAF is providing our members and their families with as much support as possible, including a wide range of resources to help them through this difficult time. 

Challenger jets no longer primarily for use by PM and VIPs, Canadian military claims

News from Ottawa Citizen – link to story

David Pugliese  •  Ottawa Citizen •  19 June 2020

The Challenger jet carrying Prime Minister Stephen Harper is seen Tuesday Sept 21, 2010 prior to departing the Canada Reception Centre in Ottawa. Prime Minister Stephen Harper will address the Millennium Development Goals High-level Plenary at the United Nations in New York City. (ANDRE FORGET / QMI AGENCY)
A file photo of a Challenger jet in 2010. POSTMEDIA FILES

The Canadian Forces is pushing ahead with rebranding the role of its Challenger jets by claiming they are mainly used for military purposes even as the air force points out their primary job is to transport VIPs such as the prime minister.

The rebranding effort came as the Canadian Forces announced June 6 it was spending $105 million on purchasing two new Challenger jets. No competition was held and the contract was awarded directly to Bombardier.

As part of its communications strategy, the Canadian Forces is now stating the jets aren’t used all that much by VIPs such as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Defence deputy minister Jody Thomas highlighted the aircraft’s role in delivering medical supplies during the coronavirus pandemic and denied in an interview with The Canadian Press news service that the planes are used for political purposes.

Social media messages, tweeted out by the Canadian military and Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance, noted the Challenger jets have “proven themselves time and time again while supporting humanitarian missions and helping during COVID-19.” Their role as VIP transport was not mentioned at all in the posts.

But Canadian Forces documentation on the procurement clearly states the purchase was for “VIP Aircraft.” The mission of the aircraft, and reason for the purchase, is also listed as being for VIP transport, according to the records. Using the Challengers in a utility military role is a secondary function, according to documents obtained by this newspaper using access to information law.

The website for the RCAF squadron flying the Challengers highlights their main VIP role and the secondary other roles. “Though primarily known for VIP transport, the CC-144 Challenger is also capable of command-and-liaison and emergency medical evacuation roles in support of CAF operations,” the website noted.

The rebranding of the Challenger role, with the message the jets are no longer being used primarily by the prime minister or VIPs, has come at the behest of the Liberal government, according to multiple sources inside National Defence headquarters in Ottawa. Neither Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Vance nor deputy minister Thomas objected to the new messaging on the jets.

The Canadian Forces, in an email sent to this newspaper Thursday, continued to maintain that the main use of the jets is for military – not VIP – duties. To suggest otherwise “is factually incorrect and not supported by data,” the email stated. The aircraft are only used 20 per cent of the time for VIPs, according to the email.

The Canadian Forces did not respond to questions about why the aircraft are referred to as “VIP Aircraft” in official military and DND documentation if they aren’t used mainly by VIPs.

The military’s social media posts on the Challenger purchase have been met with pushback from the public. In response, some social media users are pointing to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s use of the Challengers for trips to Costa Rica and St. Kitts. Others pointed to Trudeau’s use of the Challenger jet in 2016 on a controversial trip to the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas.

Political science professor Michael Byers said there are valid reasons to have a modern fleet of aircraft for use by cabinet ministers and VIPs. “But it strains credibility to claim the aircraft aren’t used primarily for that role,” said Myers, a professor at the University of British Columbia.

“This is all about optics as (the politicians) don’t like to be seen as spending more money on themselves.”

Byers noted the main issue isn’t having the Challenger jets for VIP use; it is misuse of the aircraft.

When in government, both the Liberals and Conservatives have faced controversy over how politicians used the aircraft. Critics have also questioned why it was necessary for the governor general to take 109 trips aboard a Challenger jet between April 2011 and February 2014, at a cost of $2 million.

In 2011, CTV reported Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk had spent more than $1 million over a three-year period flying on government VIP aircraft as an expensive alternative to regular commercial flights. He travelled to sporting events and fundraising dinners, as well as a trip to join his family on a cruise vacation in the Caribbean, according to access to information documents.

The email from the Canadian Forces pointed out that the Challengers were used to deliver COVID-19 testing supplies to the far north and send a team of investigators to Italy in the aftermath of the recent Cyclone helicopter crash. The Canadian Forces email also pointed to using Challenger jets for the deployment of specialized military expertise such as the Disaster Assistance Response Team. The last time that team was deployed was in 2015.

Drone Delivery Canada Announces 2nd Commercial Agreement With DSV Canada, Intended for Healthcare Cargo Delivery

From Drone Delivery Canada

TORONTO, June 22, 2020 /CNW/ – Drone Delivery Canada Corp. (TSXV: FLT) (OTC: TAKOF) (Frankfurt: A2AMGZ) (Frankfurt: ABB.F) (the “Company” or “DDC”) is pleased to announce that with the assistance of its sales agent Air Canada (TSX: AC), it has entered into a commercial agreement dated June 22, 2020 (the “Agreement“) with DSV Air & Sea Inc. Canada (“DSV“), the Canadian arm of the global transport and logistics company DSV Panalpina A/S, to deploy DDC’s drone delivery platform, with the intent for DSV to deliver healthcare related cargo from DSV’s warehouse in Milton, Ontario to DSV customers locally.

Pursuant to the terms of the Agreement, DDC will deploy its Sparrow cargo drone, with the cargo drop capability previously announced June 10, 2020. The term of the Agreement is three months, full payment will be made upfront by DSV.

At the destination, the Sparrow will hover at a lowered altitude, drop untethered cargo in a designated area shared by multiple DSV transactional customers, then return to DSV’s DroneSpot. The route is approximately 3.5km. Flights will be remotely monitored by DDC from its Operations Control Centre located in Vaughan, Ontario. DDC will commence implementation of the solution in Q3 2020 and expects to begin providing drone delivery services under the Agreement in the same quarter, with the potential of more additional routes being added in 2020. All operations will be conducted in accordance with the Canadian Aviation Regulations and Transport Canada flight authorizations.

“We are currently flying hundreds of successful flights per month at DSV for their first route, and we are pleased to announce a second paid route with DSV. DSV is a global leader in the logistics space and a perfect fit as a scalable customer for us,” said Michael Zahra, President & CEO of DDC. “DSV will use our proven Sparrow drone with the new cargo drop functionality, patented FLYTE™ system, and commercial operations centre. It’s very fulfilling to DDC to provide DSV a solution to help deliver important healthcare related cargo given the current situation.”

“During this critical time, we have helped many of our clients find new ways of delivering cargo. In order to keep goods flowing through the supply chain, innovative solutions are key to embrace. Drone delivery provides an answer to many of the challenges we’ve seen during the current situation,” says Martin Roos, Managing Director of DSV Air & Sea Canada. “Our partnership with DDC and Air Canada Cargo provides the opportunity to fulfill our clients’ needs, ensuring time sensitive, critical cargo can be delivered locally with accuracy, efficiency and minimal person-to-person contact. We are excited to optimize our clients’ supply chains and are now exploring the true potential of drone innovation.”

Flights returning to Deer Lake carrying passengers — and hope — for hospitality sector

News from CBC News – link to story

CEO of the airport authority says they’re optimistic better days are ahead

Colleen Connors · CBC News · Posted: Jun 20, 2020

Tammy Priddle, CEO of the Deer Lake Airport Authority, says the airport is losing $6,000 a day because of COVID-19 travel bans. (Colleen Connors/CBC )

The Deer Lake Regional Airport terminal is practically empty but there are physical-distancing signs posted and Plexiglas in place in anticipation of Air Canada returning Monday with daily flights from Halifax and Toronto.

Tammy Priddle, CEO of the Deer Lake Airport Authority, says they’re very excited about the flights.

“It gives us hope that there are better things to come.”

Priddle says the airport has seen a 97 per cent drop in passenger traffic since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down air travel, for an average loss of $6,000 a day, so the airport and surrounding area are welcoming the news of new flights.

The Deer Lake Airport Authority runs on a not-for-profit basis and, even with the return of some flights, will have to borrow money this year to make up for the large summer loss. Still, it’s a positive change, said Priddle.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” she said.

The provincial government requires all travelers arriving in Newfoundland and Labrador from outside the province to self-isolate for 14 days.

Business to the region

Chris Legge, general manager of the Deer Lake Motel, says he believes the flights returning to the Deer Lake Airport will mean a spike in business for his 55-room motel. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

The return of two Air Canada flights in June and WestJet flights returning in July could mean a much-needed spike in business for the hotels in Deer Lake.

The Holiday Inn Express, the Driftwood Inn and the Deer Lake Motel depend on passengers who need a place to stay before heading on their holiday to Gros Morne National Park, St. John’s or other parts of the province, so the return of flights is a signal that tourists will eventually return, whether from an Atlantic Canada bubble or beyond.

Chris Legge, general manager of the Deer Lake Motel, says his spot, just a few kilometres from the airport, is averaging 10 occupied rooms a night at a time of year when its 55 rooms are usually full each night. 

“I don’t think we really realized how much we depended on it until it shut down,” Legge said.

“I’m pretty excited, actually. April and May have been terrible. Our June month is starting to pick up already so just knowing that this is going to happen, and traffic is moving as we move to the next alert level, I think we will be OK.”

The Deer Lake Motel is usually full this time of year, but right now it’s seeing guests in only about 10 rooms a night. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Legge says it’s more than just passengers who stay at his hotel.

“We look after some of the flight attendants and crew from different airlines. They stay with us on a regular basis. That’s guaranteed rooms for us each night,” he said. 

Not a normal summer

Air Canada will return flights to the Deer Lake airport on Monday from Halifax and Toronto. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

The returning flights to the province’s west coast will not be full due to COVID-19 health restrictions. The airport would normally see 100 flights land in the summer but this year there will only be 37.

“It’s not like a light switch we can just turn back on. It’s going to take a little while. I’m optimistic — I think everyone around this area with businesses is optimistic. It’s just going to take a while. I hope everyone can survive,” said Legge. 

“I think the summer is going to look after itself. And as we move into the fall, it’s going to get better.” 

Time needed to recover

Priddle says the new flights will be a slow return to normal with fewer people on board due to physical distancing measures taken by the airlines and because she feels people are still anxious to travel.

“It will take some time to build that confidence,” she said.