Air Creebec resuming flights grounded during COVID-19

News from CBC News – link to story

Airline says it will resume 3 flights a week from Montreal to Cree communities

CBC News · Posted: Aug 18, 2020

Air Creebec said it is increasing disinfection protocols on its aircraft and offices, as well as implementing mandatory mask-wearing and physical distancing, as it brings back passenger flights. (Air Creebec/Jean-Philppe Richard)

Air Creebec will resume flight service to Cree communities, according to a news release Tuesday.

The airline grounded passenger flights earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and reduced its workforce by 50 per cent. It continued essential services such as medical charters to get patients to appointments in the South.

Air Creebec, which is owned by the Quebec Cree Nation and based in Waskaganish, Que., connects Cree communities to larger cities, such as Val d’Or, Chibougamau and Montreal.

The airline said this week that it will resume three flights a week from Montreal to the Cree communities. It will also offer a regular flight between Val-d’Or and Montreal.

“After discussions with the Cree Health Board and Public Health, Air Creebec recognizes that there is some essential travel required, such as other medical personnel, workers for urgent community needs and, in some instances, families reuniting,” the news release said.

Matthew Happyjack, president of Air Creebec, told CBC in April that it had started gradually reducing passenger service in mid-March as they saw the numbers drop. He said communities also wanted to minimize people coming in.

“The health and safety of our passengers, clients and employees is Air Creebec’s primary goal and we are not willing to sacrifice this for financial reasons,” Happyjack said in the statement this week.

The airline said it is increasing disinfection protocols on its aircraft and offices, as well as implementing mandatory mask-wearing and physical distancing.

It intends to start the limited schedule the week of Aug. 24, which will be posted on the airline’s website.

Air Creebec hopes to fill the gap in regional routes left by Air Canada

News from CTV News – link to story

Michel Ducas, The Canadian Press, Staff Published Friday, July 3, 2020

VAL D’OR, QUE — Following the announcement that Air Canada is abandoning its regional routes, Air Creebec is implementing a plan to increase its air service between Montreal and Abitibi.

The carrier, which partly belongs to the Cree nation, intends to offer a connection between Montreal, Val-d’Or and Rouyn-Noranda starting in August.

“Before the health crisis, we offered the Montreal-Val-d’Or-Chisasibi service once a day. This service will be maintained, and the flight to Rouyn-Noranda will be added,” said Air Creebec president Matthew Happyjack. “Obviously there will have to be a demand, but we are going to start with three days a week, and we will increase the pace if necessary.”

Before suspending its service, Air Canada offered four flights a day between Montreal and Abitibi.


Given the current situation, the question arises: Does Air Creebec have the backbone to upgrade their service?

“At this level, we are ready,” said Air Creebec president. “The Stornoway mine (located in the far north) has closed its facilities, which frees up certain equipment that could be used to make the new connections. As for the personnel, we have some available, following the COVID-19 crisis. We can therefore recall these workers and assign them to the new line.”

The discontent at Air Canada had also been evident for a long time.

“I’ve already heard of all kinds of stories,” added Happyjack. “With flights cancelled, and all kinds of excuses for bad service, Air Canada no longer has a very good reputation in the region. I think we can take over.”

Air Creebec intends to reach its goal without the help of Quebec or Ottawa. Currently, the carrier is receiving emergency assistance for its employees due to COVID-19, and receives already existing financial assistance, a result of the regional aviation summit held in 2018.


The next stakeholder meeting will take place on July 8, and Happyjack is hoping for progress.

“The plan we have is not an emergency plan to temporarily take over from Air Canada,” said the Air Creebec president. “We have had a plan in mind for some time, and we had partners interested in making it work. No question for us to offer a temporary service. If we work on the file, it is on a 15-20-year timeline.”

Happyjack hopes to be able to offer a service equivalent to that of Air Canada, at a price roughly equal or lower.

“Before COVID-19, we had a good percentage of our seats that were occupied on our flights,” he said. “It is certain that the demand will have to be there for us to serve Rouyn-Noranda. We know that Air Canada will continue to offer Rouyn-Noranda-Montreal service, but we don’t want to settle for a complementary role.”

Air Creebec has support not only in Val-d’Or, but everywhere in the region.

“We are privileged to be able to count on a solid carrier of the calibre of Air Creebec,” says Val-d’Or Mayor Pierre Corbeil.

Val-d’Or Chamber of Commerce executive director Hélène Paradis, agrees.

“Luckily, we have Air Creebec. The region must now massively support our carrier, since it is essential for us to maintain an air service, not only for business customers but also for our health, education and tourism services. Not to mention the mining sector, which is the backbone of our region,” she said

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 3, 2020.

Air Creebec passenger service in Quebec grounded due to COVID-19

News provided by CBC News – link to story and updates

Passenger service in Ontario and Cree health board charters reduced, but still flying

Susan Bell, Christopher Herodier · CBC News · Posted: Apr 02, 2020

Air Creebec has suspended its passenger flights to northern Quebec because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. (Air Creebec/Jean-Philppe Richard)

One of the main airlines serving northern Quebec has grounded its passenger flights and reduced its workforce by 50 per cent, as the novel coronavirus has suddenly made people stop travelling. 

Air Creebec, a regional airline owned by the Quebec Cree Nation and based in Waskaganish, Que., let passengers know by email or telephone call that it was cancelling its last remaining weekly passenger flight.

Sabrina Jolly was one of those passengers. She and her two young daughters were booked to fly Wednesday from Waskaganish back to Montreal, where she works for one of the Cree entities. 

“My employer received an email from Air Creebec that all flights have been cancelled,” said Jolly by Facebook Messenger. Jolly and her girls flew to Waskaganish on March 7 for a one-week holiday and became stranded when the pandemic closures rolled through her workplace and many others. 

It’s going to take time — just like 9/11 — for people to fly again​​​​.- Matthew Happyjack, President of Air Creebec

Air Creebec connects the Cree communities to larger cities, such as Val d’Or, Chibougamau and Montreal.

‘Montreal has the most cases, so I feel safer in my community,’ wrote Sabrina Jolly, whose flight from Waskaganish to Montreal was cancelled Wednesday. (submitted by Sabrina Jolly)

Staffing levels at Air Creebec are down from 400 to 200 people, according to president Matthew Happyjack. He said even though it’s a situation out of the company’s control, it’s been very difficult. 

“We have good people at Air Creebec. We manage the company as a family,” said Happyjack. “We are not the only ones, every company is in the same situation.”

Happyjack said the airline has been reducing its passenger service gradually since mid-March. Most recently, its operation was down to one return flight to northern Quebec weekly on Wednesdays, but now even that is grounded. 

“Even [once a week] the numbers dropped and [the flights] were empty,” said Happyjack. “The communities wanted lockdowns to minimize people going in.” 

Service to Ontario and health charters still flying

Air Creebec also operates, along with the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay, medical charters to help patients get to medical appointments in the South. 

That service has been significantly reduced, according to Happyjack.

The Cree Patient Services department of the Cree health board said the charter is an essential service that will be maintained on a modified schedule and a reduced passenger load to allow for physical distancing. 

Matthew Happyjack is the president of Air Creebec, which is 100 per cent owned by northern Quebec Cree. (Air Creebec)

Air Creebec flights out of Timmins, Ont., to fly-in-only communities in northern Ontario are still operating three days a week as an essential service, said Happyjack.  

The economic impacts of the shutdown will likely be felt in the airline industry for a long time, he said. 

“When everything is unlocked, I think it’s going to take time, just like 9/11, for people to fly again,” said Happyjack. 

Jolly is taking the cancellation in stride, working remotely from Waskaganish and spending time with family.

“Montreal has the most cases, so I feel safer in my community,” wrote Jolly.

She said she has been told she won’t fly before May 2.

“I don’t mind, as long as I’m protecting my girls and myself.”