Air Canada Supports Economic Recovery as the Country’s Leading Carrier, Serving 50 Cities Across Canada to Enable Canadians to Conveniently Connect

  • Most extensive domestic schedule supports Canada’s tourism and hospitality sector
  • Includes three new routes, re-established routes plus Air Canada Signature Class and Premium Economy Class cabins on select transcontinental routes
  • New refund policy gives additional peace of mind

MONTREAL, June 15, 2021 /CNW Telbec/ – Air Canada’s domestic peak summer schedule beginning at the end of June has been developed to advance the country’s economic recovery and support Canada’s tourism and hospitality businesses during the important summer period.  Three new domestic Canada routes, service to 50 Canadian airports, the re-establishment of select regional routes, and wide-body aircraft featuring Air Canada Signature Class and Premium Economy Class on select transcontinental routes are included. Seats with attractive pricing in all cabins are available for purchase now at aircanada.com, via the Air Canada App, Air Canada’s Contact Centres and travel agencies.

“With Canada’s ongoing vaccine roll-out acceleration together with various provincial governments’ reopening plans that include travel, this summer is looking brighter. As customers are ready to travel, Air Canada is taking a leadership position to support our partners in Canada’s tourism and hospitality sector with service to 50 destinations from coast to coast, the re-start of regional services and new, non-stop flights,” said Mark Galardo, Senior Vice President, Network Planning and Revenue Management at Air Canada.

“We are especially proud that our new state-of-the-art, Canadian-manufactured Airbus A220 aircraft will be operating across Canada. With our industry-leading CleanCare+ bio-safety protocols, promotional fares including for our premium cabins, compelling Aeroplan opportunities, and our new refund policy offering additional peace of mind, customers can book Air Canada with confidence.  We look forward to welcoming you onboard when you’re ready to fly,” concluded Mr. Galardo.

Air Canada’s new refund policy provides customers an option for a refund to the original form of payment in instances where Air Canada cancels their flight or reschedules the departure time by more than three hours, irrespective of the reason. Air Canada customers will also have the option of accepting an Air Canada Travel Voucher or Aeroplan points with a 65% bonus.  Normal fare rules will apply when customers make voluntary changes to non-affected flights.

New route details:

RouteFrequencyAircraftEffective
Montreal-Deer LakeDailyCRJ900Jul 1, 2021
Montreal-Kelowna3x Weekly July4x Weekly AugAirbus A220June 26, 2021
Montreal-Saskatoon-ReginaDailyCRJ900Aug 1, 2021

Resumption of services:

Airport StationRouteEffectiveFrequency
Gander Gander – HalifaxJun 293x Weekly
 Gander – TorontoJul 25x Weekly
St. John’s St. John’s – TorontoJun 19Daily
Goose Bay Goose Bay – St. John’sJun 293x Weekly
Deer Lake Deer Lake – HalifaxAug 15x Weekly
Halifax Halifax – CalgaryAug 15x Weekly
Sydney Sydney – TorontoJun 263x Weekly
 Sydney – MontrealAug 1Daily
Charlottetown Charlottetown – TorontoJun 184x Weekly
Saint John Saint John – MontrealJun 303x Weekly
 Saint John – TorontoJul 24x Weekly
Fredericton Fredericton – MontrealJun 29Daily
 Fredericton – TorontoJul 15x Weekly
Bathurst Bathurst – MontrealJun 273x Weekly
Quebec City Quebec City – TorontoJun 191x Daily
Ottawa Ottawa – CalgaryJul 2Daily
 Ottawa – EdmontonAug 12x Weekly
North Bay North Bay – TorontoJun 283x Weekly
Fort McMurray Fort McMurray – TorontoJuly 12x Weekly
Winnipeg Winnipeg – CalgaryJun 206x weekly
 Winnipeg – MontrealAug 1Daily
Regina Regina – CalgaryJul 15x Weekly
Saskatoon Saskatoon – CalgaryJul 25x Weekly
Kamloops Kamloops – VancouverJun 294x Weekly
 Kamloops – CalgaryJun 284x Weekly
Comox Comox – VancouverJun 303x Weekly
Nanaimo Nanaimo – TorontoJul 41x Weekly
 Nanaimo – CalgaryJul 25x weekly
Prince Rupert Prince Rupert – VancouverJun 253x Weekly
Penticton Penticton – VancouverJun 294x Weekly
Sandspit Sandspit – VancouverJun 233x Weekly
Victoria Montreal – VictoriaJun 193x Weekly
 Toronto – VictoriaJun 194x Weekly
 Calgary – VictoriaJun 214x Weekly
Castlegar Castlegar – VancouverJun 283x Weekly
Kelowna Kelowna TorontoJun 184x Weekly
Yellowknife Yellowknife – CalgaryJun 303x Weekly

Air Canada is also providing connectivity to five additional regional communities through interline agreements with third party regional carriers: Wabush, Baie Comeau, Gaspe, Mont Joli, and Val d’Or.

Air Canada’s commercial schedule may be adjusted as required based on the COVID-19 trajectory and government restrictions.

About Air Canada

Air Canada is Canada’s largest domestic and international airline, and in 2020 was among the top 20 largest airlines in the world. It is Canada’s flag carrier and a founding member of Star Alliance, the world’s most comprehensive air transportation network. Air Canada is the only international network carrier in North America to receive a Four-Star ranking according to independent U.K. research firm Skytrax. In 2020, Air Canada was named Global Traveler’s Best Airline in North America for the second straight year. In January 2021, Air Canada received APEX’s Diamond Status Certification for the Air Canada CleanCare+ biosafety program for managing COVID-19, the only airline in Canada to attain the highest APEX ranking. Air Canada has also committed to a net zero emissions goal from all global operations by 2050.

Air Canada Cargo Announces Launch Routes For its Newly Converted Freighter Aircraft Arriving This Fall

MONTREAL, June 14, 2021 /CNW Telbec/ – Air Canada and Air Canada Cargo today announced the initial list of planned routes for the Boeing 767-300ER freighters scheduled to enter service this fall. Air Canada is in the process of fully converting several of its Boeing 767 aircraft into dedicated freighters in order to fully participate in global cargo commercial opportunities.

When the first converted 767 freighters enters service in October, they will fly primarily out of Toronto Pearson International Airport, and will operate on routes linking Toronto to Miami, Quito, Lima, Mexico City and Guadalajara, the first time Air Canada Cargo will serve this destination. Additional destinations to be served in early 2022, include Halifax, St. John’s, Madrid and Frankfurt as more freighters enter service.

“These freighters will provide long-term stability and growth for our cargo customers, in particular the freight forwarding community who require reliable air freight capacity year-round. They will allow us to continue building on the success of our cargo-only flights and are an important part of our future growth. I am excited to have these aircraft enter service, a milestone for Air Canada Cargo that also opens up a world of opportunities for us and our customers,” said Jason Berry, Vice President, Cargo at Air Canada.

Air Canada has begun the process of converting certain of its Boeing 767s that have been retired from its passenger fleet into fully dedicated freighters. As part of that process, all seats are removed from the aircraft, a large door is cut into the fuselage to allow for loading of palletized cargo, and the floor is reinforced to carry additional weight. Air Canada Cargo plans to have two freighters in service by the end of 2021, with more to join the fleet in 2022.

The addition of dedicated freighter aircraft to Air Canada’s fleet will allow Air Canada Cargo to provide consistent capacity on key air cargo routes, which will facilitate the movement of goods globally. With these freighters, Air Canada Cargo will enhance its capabilities to transport goods such as automotive and aerospace parts, oil and gas equipment, pharmaceuticals, perishables, as well as handling the growing demand for fast, reliable shipment of e-commerce goods.

In the fall of 2020, Air Canada successfully concluded a collective agreement amendment with its pilots represented by the Air Canada Pilots Association for contractual changes to enable Air Canada to competitively operate dedicated cargo aircraft in the cargo marketplace.

Since March 2020, Air Canada has operated more than 9,000 all-cargo flights using its wide-body passenger aircraft as well as certain temporarily modified Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 aircraft, which have additional available cargo space due to the removal of seats from the passenger cabin.

Toronto flights returning to Fredericton as early as June 26

From CBC News – link to source story

Air Canada and WestJet are both set to make a return to the Fredericton International Airport by late June

Aidan Cox · CBC News · Jun 09, 2021

The Fredericton International Airport is expecting WestJet to offer daily flights to Toronto from its airport starting on June 26. (Submitted by Fredericton International Airport)

As higher vaccination rates are expected to bring loosened COVID-19 restrictions, the Fredericton International Airport is preparing to welcome the return of flights to cities like Toronto and Montreal by the end of June.

Johanne Gallant, the airport’s president and CEO, said WestJet is set to bring back Toronto flights on June 26, while Air Canada is expected to bring back Montreal flights on June 28 and Toronto flights on July 1.

PAL Airlines will also start offering flights from Fredericton to Deer Lake, N.L., and St. John’s, as well as Halifax and Ottawa later this summer.

Speaking on CBC’s Information Morning Fredericton show, Gallant said the flights that are returning won’t bring the airport back to its normal capacity, but it’s a good start.

“So we had more frequency than that pre-pandemic, however, this is a really good start,” Gallant said.

“And they [the airlines] will measure the demand. This is all [supply] and demand, so as the flight fills up and the demands grow, we’ll see more and more flights.”

Johanne Gallant, president and CEO of the Fredericton International Airport, said while flights won’t be going back to pre-pandemic levels by the end of June, it will be ‘a good start.’ (Submitted by Fredericton International Airport)

Gallant said it’s been a tough year for airlines, which have weathered a crash in demand due to COVID-19 restrictions on travel.

However, she said they’re gearing up for a return to normal and making sure things are safe for passengers when they start flying again.

“And at the airport also, we’re increasing, you know, the safety aspect — cleanliness and everything else. So we’re hoping with the vaccination rates going up that things will start to resume to some normalcy.”

Flights returning to capitalPlanes are expected to take flight this month at the Fredericton airport. We get details from Johanne Gallant, CEO of the Fredericton International Airport. 8:31

In an email, WestJet spokesperson Madison Kruger said the company is watching provincial reopening plans and vaccine rollout efforts.

“We are encouraged by the provincial reopening plans announced that promote the return of travel in Atlantic Canada, based on science, data and vaccination levels as early as July 1, 2021, in New Brunswick,” Kruger said.

“These plans provide a clear path and guidance towards allowing Canadians to safely travel to and from the province and will ensure WestJet can safely lead the restart of travel to this region.”

Kruger confirmed WestJet will begin offering daily flights between Toronto and Fredericton as of June 26, as well as between Toronto and Moncton as of June 30.

Air Canada and PAL Airlines did not respond to a request for comment.

The pandemic has been brutal. But airport authorities are bracing for even tougher times ahead

From CBC News – link to source story

5-year timeline for recovery at Gander and St. John’s airports

Garrett Barry · CBC News · May 12, 2021

Gander’s airport is a ghost town these days. Passenger traffic plummeted in 2020 to just 51,000 passengers. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

A pair of reports issued by airports in Newfoundland and Labrador suggest the toughest years are still to come for the industry.

Both the Gander and the St. John’s airports released their annual reports this month, and both suggest revenues won’t fully rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic until at least 2025.

In fact, both airports expect to have larger operating losses in 2021 then they did in 2020, according to projections included in their reports.

“The issue the airport has is not what’s happened in 2020; it’s what’s going to happen between 2021 and 2025, which is when we project … passenger traffic to recover to 2019 levels,” said Reg Wright, CEO of the Gander International Airport Authority.

Even then, the Gander airport is projecting revenue to reach only $6.5 million — significantly less than the $10 million once anticipated for 2020.

The revenue losses mean the suspension of some construction projects and layoffs to some full-time and seasonal workers. The St. John’s Airport Authority reported it laid off 17 per cent of its staff to save $4 million.

Reg Wright, CEO of the Gander Airport Authority, says he doesn’t expect passenger traffic to recover until 2025. (CBC)

Wright said recovery will be slow due to the potential emergence of new coronavirus variants and outbreaks, and the uneven vaccination pace around the world.

But he fears the traffic recovery will take longer in Gander, which may be a victim of a “geographically uneven recovery.” He said airlines, which are also hurting, will refocus their operations in bigger and more profitable centres.

“When they talk about small markets and getting back to them, they’re talking about places like Winnipeg and Halifax. So you can imagine where Gander sits in terms of recovery,” he said. 

Feeling the pain

Wright said the withdrawal of several air routes from his airport, including the only routes leaving the province, has led to pain in the surrounding region — and not just for leisure travellers.

He compared it to losing high-speed internet access.

“All these problems suddenly arose; couldn’t get locums in from Halifax, so it affected the delivery of health care,” he said. “Essential workers were adding 7½- to eight-hour return journeys onto their trip west. Core samples — mining sector in central [Newfoundland] is on bust — couldn’t get those out.”

That’s partly why he says the provincial government will need to help prop up the air travel sector.

“My suggestion to them is they are going to have to take an active role in restoring air linkages. And in some cases, they might have to match airport subsidies or incentives for service that is critical to the economic well-being of the province.”

Plummeting pace

The Gander airport saw about 51,000 passengers through their doors this year, the lowest number on record.

In St. John’s, passenger traffic fell by 75 per cent in 2020, and airport CEO Peter Avery wrote in his report that it remains at a 50-year low. 

“This is a devastating reality for an island reliant on air travel,” he wrote. 

Both airports have made significant spending cuts a a result of the losses.

In St. John’s, airport management decided to indefinitely suspend the west terminal expansion project, which was set to add gates and baggage carousels.

The Gander Airport, for the first time in its history, shut down one of its two runways over the winter, to save money on maintenance.

The National Trust of Canada once called Gander Airport’s international departures lounge the most important modernist room in Canada. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

However, the airport authority has decided to continue with their international lounge renovations. Wright said it’s being in done in the hope that the airport will be “in a position of growth at some point.”

Sunwing announces winter flight schedule from regional gateways across Atlantic Canada

Tour operator to offer weekly flights from Halifax, Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, St. John’s, Deer Lake and Gander

TORONTO, April 27, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Sunwing is making it easier for residents of Atlantic Canada to head back to the tropics this winter, with convenient weekly flights from regional gateways across Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. Residents of Halifax, Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, St. John’s, Deer Lake and Gander can make their much-anticipated return to paradise with vacation packages to some of the most popular destinations across the Caribbean and Mexico. Flights will begin in January 2022 and run weekly until May 2022.

“We’re thrilled to be returning to Atlantic Canada for another winter season,” commented Andrew Dawson, President of Tour Operations for Sunwing Travel Group. “After a difficult year, we’re sure that Canadians will be eager to return to paradise and enjoy some much-needed rest and relaxation. We’re excited to be able to help them enjoy a frictionless vacation experience with convenient flights from local gateways across the region.”

Residents of Atlantic Canada will be able to choose from a range of vacation packages designed for every travel style and budget. Sun-seekers can Vacation Like a Star™ at the newly-opened Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Cancun and the first-ever Planet Hollywood Adult Scene Cancun, featuring entertainment-themed facilities and authentic Hollywood memorabilia around the resort. Those looking to make the most of their vacation budget can enjoy exclusive RIU®-topia inclusions at Canadian-favourite chain RIU Hotels & Resorts, including the recently renovated Riu Montego Bay. Plus, travellers who book by April 30, 2021 for travel between November 1, 2021 and April 30, 2022 can enjoy flexible booking options with the ability to change their plans with ease and save up to $1,000 per couple during the tour operator’s Freedom 21/22 Sale.

The flight schedule from Halifax, NS will be as follows:

  • Between Halifax and Cancun, Sundays from January 16, 2022 until May 8, 2022
  • Between Halifax and Montego Bay, Mondays from January 17, 2022 until May 9, 2022
  • Between Halifax and Puerto Plata, Tuesdays from January 18, 2022 until May 10, 2022
  • Between Halifax and Punta Cana, Fridays from January 14, 2022 until May 6, 2022
  • Between Halifax and Cayo Coco, Wednesdays from January 12, 2022 until May 11, 2022
  • Between Halifax and Cayo Santa Maria, Thursdays from January 13, 2022 until May 5, 2022
  • Between Halifax and Holguin, Sundays from January 16, 2022 until May 8, 2022
  • Between Halifax and Varadero, Thursdays and Saturdays from January 13, 2022 until May 7, 2022

The flight schedule from Moncton, NB will be as follows:

  • Between Moncton and Cancun, Thursdays from February 10, 2022 until May 5, 2022
  • Between Moncton and Montego Bay, Sundays from February 13, 2022 until May 8, 2022
  • Between Moncton and Puerto Plata, Fridays from February 11, 2022 until May 6, 2022
  • Between Moncton and Punta Cana, Saturdays from February 12, 2022 until May 7, 2022
  • Between Moncton and Varadero, Fridays from February 11, 2022 until May 6, 2022

The flight schedule from Saint John, NB will be as follows:

  • Between Saint John and Varadero, Saturdays from February 5, 2022 until May 7, 2022

The flight schedule from Fredericton, NB will be as follows:

  • Between Fredericton and Cancun, Mondays from February 14, 2022 until May 9, 2022
  • Between Fredericton and Punta Cana, Wednesdays from February 9, 2022 until May 4, 2022
  • Between Fredericton and Cayo Coco, Tuesdays from February 15, 2022 until May 10, 2022

The flight schedule from St. John’s, NL will be as follows:

  • Between St. John’s and Cayo Coco, Thursdays from March 10, 2022 until May 12, 2022
  • Between St. John’s and Varadero, Saturdays from March 12, 2022 until May 14, 2022
  • Between St. John’s and Cancun, Fridays from March 11, 2022 until May 13, 2022
  • Between St. John’s and Montego Bay, Sundays from March 13, 2022 until May 15, 2022
  • Between St. John’s and Punta Cana, Mondays from March 14, 2022 until May 9, 2022

The flight schedule from Deer Lake and Gander, NL will be as follows:

  • Between Deer Lake/Gander and Varadero, Tuesdays from March 15, 2022 until May 10, 2022
  • Between Deer Lake/Gander and Punta Cana, Wednesdays from March 16, 2022 until May 11, 2022

Vacationers can return to these Canadian-favourite destinations and travel with peace of mind knowing that the highest Canadian standards are in place throughout their entire vacation experience with the Safe with Sunwing commitment, created under the advisement of global healthcare leader Medcan.

About Sunwing

The largest integrated travel company in North America, Sunwing has more flights to the south than any other leisure carrier with convenient direct service from airports across Canada to popular sun destinations across the U.S.A., Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. This scale enables Sunwing to offer customers exclusive deals at top-rated resorts in the most popular vacation destinations as well as cruise packages and seasonal domestic flight service. Sunwing customers benefit from the assistance of the company’s own knowledgeable destination representatives, who greet them upon arrival and support them throughout their vacation journey. The company supports the communities where it operates through the Sunwing Foundation, a charitable initiative focused on the support and development of youth and humanitarian aid.

Airports feeling wind under their wings after announcement PAL Airlines will expand flights

From CTV News – link to source story & link to video

Kyle Moore, CTV News Atlantic Reporter | Monday, April 12, 2021

A group is looking for solutions to help make air travel a more pleasant experience.

SYDNEY, N.S. — Airports around here are hoping the addition of flights by PAL Airlines is a sign of recovery for the aviation industry, which has been hit hard by the pandemic.

More than 50 percent of the workforce has lost their jobs, but employment opportunities are returning as flights take to the air in the coming weeks.

Sydney’s airport will soon see traffic both on the tarmac and at the ticket counter.

PAL Airlines will lift off May 31, offering commercial service to and from the island for the first time in more than three months.

“It’s certainly the news that we have been hoping for and advocating for since the end of 2020 when we found out all commercial service was being suspended from our local airport,” said Kathleen Yurchesyn of the Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce.

With the loss of daily flights from Air Canada and WestJet across the Maritimes, people who work in the aviation industry in the region have been left without work.

“Over 50 per cent of our sector is out of work,” said Monette Pasher, the executive director of the Atlantic Canada Airports Association.”I think as we take steps towards recovery and see some of our air services come back, hopefully more people will be re-employed in our industry.”

Fredericton International Airport will also benefit from the Newfoundland-based airline with PAL’s direct flights to Deer Lake and St. John’s, starting next month.

With three weekly direct flights to Ottawa and Halifax beginning in August, it all translates into much-needed employment.

“PAL Airlines will bring in someone and then it creates jobs because you have a ground handler that handles the air service,” said Johanne Gallant, the CEO of Fredericton International Airport.

Gallant says PAL Airlines has provided cautious optimism for an industry paralyzed by the pandemic.

“The Halifax service and the Ottawa service, these are two routes that were served by Air Canada and they said they wouldn’t be renewing that service short-term, so this will definitely fill a need for the region,” Gallant said.

Back in Sydney, the airport will now be home to three commercial carriers when Air Canada and WestJet return in June.

PAL Airlines to service Fredericton with direct flights to Newfoundland, Ottawa, Halifax

From CBC News – link to source story

The announcement marks the first-ever offering of direct flights from Fredericton to Newfoundland

Isabelle Leger · CBC News · Apr 07, 2021

PAL Airlines will offer flights from Fredericton to Deer Lake and St. John’s Newfoundland, starting May 31. (PAL Airlines)

A Newfoundland-based airline will service the Fredericton International Airport with direct flights to Deer Lake and St. John’s, starting May 31.

PAL Airlines announced Wednesday it would offer three weekly flights to both cities, marking the first time Fredericton has ever had direct flights to Newfoundland.  

“This is a long time coming… we’re confident there’s a demand for this,” said Fredericton Airport CEO Johanne Gallant. 

“We’re really pleased to see that PAL Airlines is willing to take this on.”

Johanne Gallant is the CEO of the Fredericton International Airport. (Submitted by Fredericton International Airport)

The airline will also offer three weekly direct flights from Fredericton to Ottawa and Halifax, beginning Aug. 2. 

Gallant said the addition of services is a sign of recovery for the aviation industry, which was paralyzed by pandemic restrictions. 

With plans for the Atlantic Bubble to open on April 19, she said the flights to Newfoundland and Halifax will provide New Brunswickers access to some prime tourist destinations. 

“We really see, for the summer, great leisure opportunities… people from here wanting to do something different and Newfoundland has such a great tourism product,” said Gallant.  

The Fredericton airport just underwent a major renovation. (JAMES WEST PHOTOGRAPHY)

She said the flights to Halifax will fill the demand for corporate flyers and students, which was left unserviced when Air Canada halted all flights from the airport in January.

  • Air Canada to suspend operations in Fredericton
  • Air Canada, Flair planning June 1 restart in Saint John, airport says
  • WestJet expects ‘very high demand’ for flights coming back in June, may add more

No one from PAL Airlines was available for an interview with CBC News on Wednesday, but the company provided an emailed statement. 

“We understand giving people the ability to get into and out of the region reliably and efficiently is going to be essential to the post-pandemic recovery,” said the statement.

‘We’re ready for these new airlines’

The Fredericton airport completed a large terminal expansion this month, which Gallant says made room for more carriers. 

Fredericton International Airport completed the renovations in early 2021. (Submitted by Fredericton International Airport)

“Definitely having a brand-new terminal with lots of space for social distancing, that helps,” she said.   

“With the terminal expansion project, we’re ready for these new airlines.”

Air Canada and WestJet have announced their flights will resume at the airport this summer. 

Gallant said the airport is still waiting for an official response from Porter Airlines on whether it will restore its services from pre-pandemic.

She said it’s also hopeful that Sunwing will be able to offer vacation getaway packages from Fredericton by next winter. 

Canada’s PAL Airlines to expand to 11 cities this summer

From Flight Global – link to source story

By Jon Hemmerdinger | 7 April 2021

Canadian regional carrier PAL Airlines will expand its network this summer to include 11 new destinations in eastern Canada.

The expansion comes as Canada’s airlines eye a potential summer rebound in air travel demand.

PAL, which operates De Havilland Canada Dash 8 turboprops, will this summer add flights to Halifax and Sydney in Nova Scotia, and to Saint John, Fredericton and Bathurst in New Brunswick, the airline tells FlightGlobal.

PAL Airlines Dash
Source: PAL Airlines | A PAL Airlines De Havilland Canada Dash 8 turboprop

The expansion will also see PAL add service to Ottawa in Ontario and Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island. Additionally, it will begin flying to four cities in Quebec: Les Iles de la Madeleine, Gaspe, Baie-Comeau and Val-d’Or.

The Fredericton routes will include flights to Deer Lake, and onward to St John’s, and to Ottawa and Halifax, the Fredericton airport says on 7 April.

WestJet has also announced a planned expansion. That carrier intends to restore flights to several eastern Canadian cities in late June, meaning it would again serve all the cities it did prior to the pandemic.

WestJet to restore regional routes suspended due to COVID-19

Flights set to resume to airports across Atlantic Canada and Quebec City as part of the airline’s commitment to a safe restart  

CALGARY, AB, March 24, 2021 /CNW/ – WestJet today announced it will restore flights to the communities of Charlottetown, Fredericton, Moncton, Sydney and Quebec City after service was suspended as a result of COVID-19. The reinstatement of service will restore WestJet’s complete network of pre-COVID-19 domestic airports.

“We committed to return to the communities we left, as a result of the pandemic, and we will be restoring flights to these regions in the coming months, of our own volition,” said Ed Sims, WestJet, President and CEO. “These communities have been a crucial factor in our success over our 25 years and it is critical for us to ensure they have access to affordable air service and domestic connectivity to drive their economic recovery.” 

Service is set to resume to the five airports WestJet suspended service from in November, beginning June 24, 2021 through to June 30, 2021. In addition, service between St. John’s and Toronto, which was indefinitely suspended in October, will resume effective June 24, 2021. Following a temporary suspension, the restart of service between St. John’s and Halifax will be advanced from June 24, 2021 to May 6, 2021. Full schedule details and restart dates are outlined below. 

“Our focus remains on the safe restart of air travel. We ask that federal and provincial governments work with us to provide clarity and certainty to Canadians, including travel policies that support economic recovery and restore jobs,” continued Sims.  

Recognizing the investments that WestJet’s travel and tourism partners in the regions need to make to begin to recover from the pandemic, the airline will continue to encourage the Atlantic premiers to advance their efforts to ensure the region is open to Canadians this summer. 

“Alongside an accelerated and successful vaccine rollout, we are hopeful that there will be an easing of onerous travel restrictions currently in place,” said Sims. “We look forward to working together to safely reconnect Canadians to the region in the coming months.”  

Planned Network Service Resumptions: 

Route Frequency Planned restart date 
St. John’s-Halifax 6x weekly May 6, 2021 
Charlottetown-Toronto 11x weekly June 24, 2021 
St. John’s-Toronto 1x daily June 24, 2021 
Fredericton-Toronto 1x daily June 26, 2021 
Quebec City-Toronto 1x dailyJune 28, 2021 
Sydney-Halifax 1x daily June 28, 2021 
Moncton-Toronto 1x daily June 30, 2021 

In 25 years of serving Canadians, WestJet has cut airfares in half and increased the flying population in Canada to more than 50 per cent. WestJet launched in 1996 with three aircraft, 250 employees and five destinations, growing over the years to more than 180 aircraft, 14,000 employees and more than 100 destinations in 23 countries, pre-pandemic. 

Since the start of the pandemic the WestJet Group of Companies has built a layered framework of safety measures to ensure Canadians can continue to travel safely and responsibly through the airline’s Safety Above All hygiene program. During this time, WestJet has maintained its status as one of the top-10 on-time airlines in North America as named by Cirium. 

More flight cuts mean greater uncertainty for tourism industry, says airport CEO

From CBC News – link to source story

Airline cuts and another lockdown another body blow for an already reeling industry

Conor McCann · CBC News · Posted: Feb 24, 2021

St. John’s International Airport Authority CEO Peter Avery, pictured here in January, says Newfoundland and Labrador’s tourism industry is facing another tough year in 2021. (CBC)

The CEO of the St. John’s International Airport says the loss of WestJet’s St. John’s-to-Halifax route is “depressing” and won’t help Newfoundland and Labrador’s tourism industry rebound this year.

The route cut, which comes into effect March 21, will suspend the three weekly flights between the cities until at least June 24 — and with them, says Peter Avery, will go a sizable chunk of a provincial industry that has been battered since last March.

“A lot of airline staff have been let go, airport authority staff have also been laid off,” said Avery. “So for those that are still hanging on it’s pretty grim.”

Since early 2020 and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, air travel has been one of the hardest-hit sectors of the provincial economy, and Avery said the downward trend is set to continue.

“Our numbers in January were down 83 per cent over January of 2019,” said Avery. “We’re only about 20 per cent of the traffic levels where we normally are at.”

Though the airport authority has cut its operating costs by over 20 per cent, he said, there are some expenses and services them remain necessary, forcing the airport to be creative in saving where they can.

“You still have to snow-clear runways and keep the lights on and keep functioning for basic essential services for the province, like medevac and essential cargo,” said Avery. “We’ve closed areas of the terminal building, we changed our snow-clearing regimen, and closed non-essential areas for snow clearing, and even closed runways to try to cut down on our costs.”

Hotels already feeling the pinch

Greg Ivany, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express & Suites near the St. John’s airport, expects to see a drop-off in hotel stays with the suspension of the WestJet flights.

“It’s hard to say right now exactly what impact it will have on us as an individual business, but with the tourism industry and travel industry as a whole, for the province it’s a huge blow to have a supplier completely pull out for air access.”

It’s another blow for hotel operations, said Ivany, adding the cancellation could have wide-reaching effects across the province by limiting the options for essential travel.

“We’re mostly seeing essential [travellers], so essential people coming in for medical appointments or, essential corporate for offshore or within Newfoundland itself,” said Ivany. “But we have a lot of clients coming from Labrador for medical appointments.”

Tourism industry set for another difficult year

While the airport authority has been able to buoy itself through operational cuts, Avery said they need to begin looking for alternative measures to bolster both the air travel and tourism industries. They’d like to see public health officials lower barriers but increase precautions.

“For countries and regions like ours that rely so much on the tourist season, you’re seeing a big move towards point-of-entry testing.”

Avery said that extra layer of precaution could salvage the coming tourism season, but the tentative date of June 24 for the return of the WestJet routes is later than he’d like.

Avery says the airport would like to see lowered barriers but increased precautions to bolster the industry. (Gary Locke/CBC)

“A lot of our tourism industry won’t survive with a year like last year,” said Avery. “What’s going to make things turn around and make airlines change their decisions … is going to be the relaxation of our quarantine on our travel restriction measures.”

As things are going now, said Avery, 2021 will not be a good year for the airport authority, or tourism in general.

“In December when we did our operating budget, we had projected that 2021 would be even worse than 2020. Our revenues were down 60 per cent in 2020, our traffic was down 75 per cent. We predicted our revenues would be down 65 per cent in 2021, and traffic would be down 80 per cent.” 

And, Avery noted, those predictions assumed a still-functioning Atlantic bubble, which hasn’t been in effect for months.

While he acknowledged the province’s comparatively rigid containment measures has successfully kept outbreaks at bay, Avery sees the arrival of a new COVID variant as evidence that the status quo may no longer be enough.

“What we really need now is to see measures change through point of entry testing, and even point-of-departure testing, to complement quarantine and hopefully reduce it over time, because that will stimulate demand.”

I fear that you will see some of the smaller businesses end up having to close down, because there’s a lack of vision for how long this is going to last.- Greg Ivany

Between the lack of business and the heightened regulations needed to maintain the industry through the pandemic, Ivany said, many business owners are wondering how much longer they can sustain the added pressure.

“That’s the question of the hour,” he said. “Right now we’re struggling as an industry, and as an individual business, we’re struggling.”

While subsidies from the federal government have helped businesses like the Holiday Inn stay afloat through the worst of the pandemic, Ivany worries that there’s no long-term plan.

“Should this go on much longer, I fear that you will see some of the smaller businesses end up having to close down, because there’s a lack of vision for how long this is going to last,” Ivany said. “And right now there are no long-term relief efforts.”