No Charlottetown-Halifax flights had been operating since April COVID-19 slowdown
Kevin Yarr · CBC News · Posted: Jul 02, 2020
Atlantic Canada could be feeling an extended impact from Air Canada’s decision to suspend some key flights in the region, says the CEO of the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce.
Earlier this week, the airline announced it was “indefinitely suspending” 30 flight routes, including trips from Charlottetown to Halifax and vice versa. In 2019, 35,000 people flew on that route, but planes have not flown the route since early April, when restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic set in.
Air Canada said decreased demand due to the pandemic’s lingering impact does not support bringing the four daily round trips between Charlottetown and Halifax back in September, as the airline had originally planned.
Air connections are important for businesses in particular, says Sheri Somerville, CEO of the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce — “not just economic recovery out of COVID, but also our recovery and growth for the future of Atlantic Canada.”
The Atlantic Chamber of Commerce is hoping to work with government to find ways to help the economy in the region.
In a news release announcing the changes, Canada’s biggest airline said: “Air Canada expects the industry’s recovery will take a minimum of three years. As a consequence, other changes to its network and schedule, as well as further service suspensions, will be considered over the coming weeks as the airline takes steps to decisively reduce its overall cost structure and cash burn rate.”
Political leaders in the Big Land are unhappy with Air Canada’s slashing of routes to the region, saying flights will now be scarcer and more expensive, and questioning the company’s motives.
The airline announced on Tuesday it was pulling out of Wabush Airport, as well as dropping its flights from Happy Valley-Goose Bay and the island, as part of a 30-route cutback across Canada.
Air Canada’s only service to Labrador is now its flight between Goose Bay and Halifax.
“To have the mat pulled underneath our feet from Air Canada here, it’s devastating,” said Wally Andersen, the mayor of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, noting the impacts ripple out to Labrador’s north and south coasts, where people rely on travel through Goose Bay to get to medical appointments on the island.
The MHA for Labrador West echoed those concerns, with Jordan Brown calling the move “a big blow to the region.”
“We get so busy here in Lab West, especially when the mines are having any rebuilds or anything like that. So this is going to create a massive bottleneck in the availability to travel out of the region,” he said.
Both see all sorts of traffic affected, from leisure tourism to medical appointments, to construction workers commuting to jobs. With the current push for summer staycations in the province, Andersen said the Air Canada move means any extra boost of visitors to Labrador is “going to be almost impossible.”
“We went through COVID-19 and were all looking forward to opening up a little bit. But to have your travel limited, it’s not something we were looking forward to,” he said.
COVID a convenient excuse?
They also predict the price of remaining flights to and from the Big Land, already costly and in short supply, are set to skyrocket.
A regular return ticket from Goose Bay to St. John’s easily tops $1,000, with last minute flights far more than that, and Andersen is left wondering about Air Canada’s rationale for the move.
“For them to say they weren’t making money, when their planes were basically full … I question the reason why they’re pulling out of Goose Bay,” he said.
I think they used this COVID as an excuse to just cut ties altogether with the region.- Jordan Brown
Air Canada has stated the cutbacks are an attempt to staunch the financial bleeding its experienced since the start of the pandemic, as plane travel has nosedived. The carrier had a net loss of more than $1 billion in the first quarter of 2020 alone and trimmed its workforce by 20,000.
Brown shares Andersen’s skepticism, noting that Air Canada has “slowly deteriorated” the quality of its Wabush service for years, downsizing from jets to an 18-seater Beechcraft.
“I think they used this COVID as an excuse to just cut ties altogether with the region,” he said.
Wabush Mayor Ron Barron took things a step further Tuesday, telling CBC News he sees the loss as a potential ploy for Air Canada to angle for a federal bailout.
Barron said he had spoken to PAL Airlines about possibly taking up some of Air Canada’s slack. PAL declined an interview with CBC, instead pointing to a statement it made on social media that did not address any future expansions.
On Facebook, PAL stated its operations “will not be affected by Air Canada’s announcement.”
Brown said he had no commitments as of yet from other carriers to step in and fill the Air Canada void in Wabush, while Andersen said regional leaders would be coming together to reach out to other airlines and advocate for more service.
Wabush Airport is still served by PAL, as well as Pascan Aviation and a few other small regional carriers. Goose Bay remains served by PAL and its subsidiary Air Borealis.
Regional flying rationalized due to COVID-19 and government travel restrictions, part of airline’s Cost Reduction Program to reduce cash burn
MONTREAL, June 30, 2020 /CNW Telbec/ – Air Canada said today that it is indefinitely suspending service on 30 domestic regional routes and closing eight stations at regional airports in Canada.
These structural changes to Air Canada’s domestic regional network are being made as a result of continuing weak demand for both business and leisure travel due to COVID-19 and provincial and federal government-imposed travel restrictions and border closures, which are diminishing prospects for a near-to-mid-term recovery.
As the company has previously reported, Air Canada expects the industry’s recovery will take a minimum of three years. As a consequence, other changes to its network and schedule, as well as further service suspensions, will be considered over the coming weeks as the airline takes steps to decisively reduce its overall cost structure and cash burn rate.
A full list of route suspensions and station closures is below.
As a result of COVID-19, Air Canada reported a net loss of $1.05 billion in the first quarter of 2020, including a net cash-burn in March of $688 million. The carrier has undertaken a range of structural changes including significant cost savings and liquidity measures, of which today’s announced service suspensions form part. Other measures include:
A workforce reduction of approximately 20,000 employees, representing more than 50 per cent of its staff, achieved through layoffs, severances, early retirements and special leaves;
A company-wide Cost Reduction and Capital Deferral Program, that has to date identified around $1.1 billion in savings;
A reduction of its system-wide capacity by approximately 85 per cent in the second quarter compared to last year’s second quarter and an expected third quarter capacity reduction of at least 75% from the third quarter of 2019;
The permanent removal of 79 aircraft from its mainline and Rouge fleets;
And raising approximatively $5.5 billion in liquidity since March 13, 2020, through a series of debt, aircraft and equity financings.
Further initiatives are being considered.
The following routes will be suspended indefinitely as per applicable regulatory notice requirements. Affected customers will be contacted by Air Canada and offered options, including alternative routings where available.
Maritimes/Newfoundland and Labrador:
Deer Lake-Goose Bay;
Deer Lake-St. John’s;
Goose Bay-St. John’s.
Baie Comeau-Mont Joli;
Gaspé-Iles de la Madeleine;
The following are the Regional Airports where Air Canada is closing its stations:
Saint John Airport officials are worried passengers from outside New Brunswick will be turned away by border patrols as Air Canada resumes flights from Montreal to the Port City.
One daily flight arrived at the Saint John Airport shortly before 3:30 p.m. and was to depart at 4:30 p.m. Border patrol officers with the province are questioning travellers arriving at the airport.
“Obviously, you have to have a legitimate reason … on why you’re coming into New Brunswick, and if those are met, than you should be OK to come in,” said Jacques Fournier, director of commercial development at the Saint John Airport.
“If they’re not, there’s always a chance they could get turned away.”
He said the plane is a 78-seat aircraft, which has been upgraded from the 50-seat commercial aircraft originally planned.
“Obviously, the demand is a little more than we thought.”
But Fournier said some seats won’t be used, so passengers can keep their distance from each other on the plane.
“I would have to say the aircraft will be pretty busy today.”
Flights at all three of New Brunswick’s largest airports have been reduced since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, and service in Saint John was suspended altogether.
Saint John Airport staff have also taken steps to make sure passengers can physically distance themselves from one another, including when they’re lining up to get on a plane.
People permitted to come into the province are still required to self-isolate for two weeks, with the exception of New Brunswick residents working who have been working outside the province.
Geoffrey Downey, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, said there are two peace officers and two screeners at each airport during hours of operation.
“Some people still need to travel and want to travel,” said Fournier. “I believe we will still see people with cottages here in New Brunswick coming in.”
Additional flights to Toronto and Montreal from Saint John will start on July 1.
“It’s been a while since we’ve seen commercial traffic coming back into the Saint John Airport,” Fournier said. “So it is very exciting.”
More flights added to Moncton offerings
Toronto and Montreal flights that were previously suspended to and from the Moncton Roméo LeBlanc International Airport, also resumed Monday. They include one daily flight to Toronto and Montreal until June 30.
In July, flights to each city will operate twice a day, but exceptions could apply, said Julie Pondant, a spokesperson for the airport.
Halifax and Ottawa flights are suspended until Sept. 7.
WestJet currently operates three days a week to Toronto from the Moncton airport.
Swoop Airlines has postponed service to the Moncton airport.
The Fredericton International Airport has two daily Air Canada flights to Montreal and three WestJet flights per week to Toronto.
“The airport has been open continuously, with both Air Canada and WestJet continuing to serve YFC, although on a reduced schedule,” said Kate O’Rourke, a spokesperson for the Fredericton International Airport.
Porter and Sunwing have both suspended operations until the end of July at New Brunswick airports.
Council already voted once against financing Winnipeg company’s involvement
CBC News · Posted: Jun 15, 2020
Stephenville’s town council voted Monday to spend $223,000 to hire a private company to try to bring its beleaguered airport back from the brink.
The vote was on a proposed management contract between Stephenville’s airport authority and Winnipeg Airport Services Corporation, a company that provides an array of aviation services to Canadian airports from Kamloops to Iqaluit. Its CEO reached out to Stephenville council in November, said the town’s mayor, with meetings and discussions culminating in the proposed plan.
The funding matter came up at its last public meeting June 4, and was defeated by a 4-3 vote. Following several subsequent private meetings, on Monday the nays recanted and the motion passed unanimously.
“Having unanimous support shows that we as a council are working together. We’re going to move this file forward,” said Mayor Tom Rose at the meeting which took place via a live-streamed video conference.
During the meeting, Rose said most of the $223,000 will be repaid by the provincial government, with Stephenville taxpayers on the hook for about $13,500.
Coun. Mark Felix, a former council finance chair who has been a critic of the town’s financial support of the airport in the past, was one of the people who changed his mind to support Monday’s vote, given the money was now largely going to be repaid.
“I’m a supporter of the airport, but not at all costs,” he said.
“As we reach sustainability in maybe three years from now, the airport might be putting money back into the town council, and that’s my goal,” Rose said, in an earlier interview with the CBC Newfoundland Morning Show.
Sustainability is a far cry from the current financial situation of the airport, which has been steadily losing traffic.
Several councillors on Monday spoke of efforts underway to attract a new airline, hinting that a company is interested in providing regular service to Halifax, Sydney and St. John’s, and that further fundraising efforts would be required to make that a reality.
“I’m sure we’ll be bringing more information on that to the weeks that come,” said Depurty Mayor Susan Fowlow.
“This is the first step, which is to get this company in and get things moving.”
Rose said he has spoken to the provincial government and it has promised to chip in a portion of the needed funds.
“They’re supporting this deal because they feel that Winnipeg is the right equation, the right business modelling, the right company, to finally get Stephenville back on track,” Rose said.
Rose said WASCO’s aviation expertise gives him confidence.
“They have the track record. They have the expertise and competencies, they’re subject matter experts in the field, and I’m really excited,” he said.
While official direction for the future rests with the Stephenville Airport Corporation, a non-profit airport authority run by a board of directors, Stephenville’s council has contributed to the airport financially for years.
Airline continues to focus on significant safety and hygiene enhancements to ensure a safe travel journey
CALGARY, AB, June 15, 2020 /CNW/ – WestJet today released its updated July schedule, developed to allow Canadians the pleasure of summer travel while economically supporting communities across the country in safely reopening travel and domestic tourism. In addition, the airline has added flights to select U.S. markets.
To ensure guests can book with confidence, the airline maintains its stringent Safety Above All hygiene program and continues to provide flexibility in booking, change and cancellation policies.
“Today’s schedule reflects our commitment to orderly and safe travel while providing steps to allow Canadians to get out, explore, and take part in critical economic activities like staying in hotels, eating out, visiting tourist attractions or simply just travelling to see friends and family,” said Arved von zur Muehlen, WestJet Chief Commercial Officer. “Governments and Canadians from coast-to-coast are working together to lessen the impact of this pandemic and we are grateful that these efforts have put us in a position to add more options for travel this July.”
From July 5 through August 4, 2020, WestJet will offer operations to 45 destinations including 39 in Canada, five in the U.S. and one in Mexico an increase of approximately 102 per cent more flights from June, but down 76 per cent from July 2019.
Continued von zur Muehlen, “As we emerge from the pandemic, health vigilance must be balanced with the gradual reopening of our economy. WestJet has done our part and spent millions of dollars to ensure the safety and well-being of our guests and our people. We’re ready to get Canadians flying.”
On March 22, WestJet suspended its international and transborder operations. The airline’s schedule now contains flights to key transborder and international destinations including Los Angeles (LAX), Atlanta (ATL) and Las Vegas (LAS).
“Jurisdictions around the world are opening, allowing citizens to begin flying once again which is kickstarting their economies for recovery. We’ve heard from the communities we serve and look forward to having Canadians safely participate and stimulate domestic tourism this summer,” stated von zur Muehlen.
At this time, the airline is planning on operating the following domestic routes and frequencies from July 5 – August 4.
BY GRAEME BENJAMIN GLOBAL NEWS |Posted June 2, 2020
The president and CEO of the Halifax International Airport Authority (HIAA) has let stakeholders know that the number of staff members will be reduced by 25 per cent.
“In my 20 years at HIAA, I never thought I would be dealing with such an extreme situation that has so dramatically shifted our business in a short period of time,” Joyce Carter said in a statement dated Tuesday.
Carter said the reduction in staff is needed to match expected airport operations and service delivery requirements over the next few years.
She said the company doesn’t expect flight volumes to return to 2019 levels for many years, which will “drastically reduce the available revenue that is required for the safe and efficient operation of the airport.”
“We sincerely regret having to do layoffs,” she said.
“We’ve been fortunate to build on a strong foundation over the past 20 years that HIAA has been managing and operating the airport.”
“Our people are a big part of the reason we are consistently recognized among the best airports of our size in the world, and therefore, taking this step is heartbreaking.”
Carter said notices have been issued to a number of union and non-union employees, which followed earlier steps taken such as freezing hiring, not filling several vacant positions, ending term, seasonal and student contracts, and asking for voluntary leaves.
It’s currently unclear how many employees will be impacted by the layoffs.
Halifax Stanfield International Airport spokesperson Tiffany Chase 225 people are usually employed, including terms and students.
Carter added that the airport served fewer passengers in the entire month of April than on an average day in 2019.
“This is a really tough time for our team — those individuals who are personally affected, their colleagues, and all employees who will be facing big changes with this announcement,” she said.
“It will take time, but we’re confident that we’ll recover with the right-sized organization focused on safely and efficiently operating the airport post-pandemic and be ready to welcome you once again.”
That final flight was part of the Snowbirds’ cross-country tour to recognize the efforts of Canadians in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CBC News will carry a live stream of the procession, which starts at 5 p.m. AT.
At the request of Casey’s family, spectators are asked to respect physical distancing measures in relation to COVID-19. They’re also encouraging people to wear the colours of the Snowbirds — red and white — in Casey’s honour.
Governor General Julie Payette will also attend the homecoming ceremony at the Halifax airport on Sunday, according to a release from her office.
The planned motorcade route is:
From the Park & Fly parking lot to Highway 102.
Highway 102 to Bayers Road.
Bayers Road to Connaught Avenue.
Right onto Connaught Avenue to Almon Street.
Left onto Almon Street to Agricola Street.
Left onto Agricola Street to Highland Avenue.
Slight right onto Highland Avenue to Woodbine Avenue.
Left onto Woodbine Avenue to Rosemeade Avenue.
Left onto Rosemeade Avenue to Hillside Avenue.
Right onto Hillside Avenue to Robie Street.
Right onto Robie Street to Normandy Drive.
Left onto Normandy Drive to High Street.
Left onto High Street to Lady Hammond Road.
Left onto Lady Hammond Road to Robie Street.
Right onto Robie Street to Young Street.
Right onto Young Street to the Windsor Street intersection; continue straight onto Bayers Road.
‘Right now our predictions are to get back to 2019 passenger levels by 2024’
CBC News · Posted: May 13, 2020
Halifax’s airport is operating at two per cent capacity due to travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic — and staff do not expect to see passenger numbers return to last year’s levels until at least 2024.
On a typical day in May, there are usually 11,000 travellers flying in and out of Halifax Stanfield International Airport. That number is now at roughly 200 to 300 passengers on just a handful of flights — down 98 per cent.
“It’s actually really quite sad. Things are empty and things are very quiet and we certainly miss our passengers,” said Joyce Carter, president and CEO of the Halifax International Airport Authority.
The federal government has restricted all non-essential traffic during the pandemic. Canadian airports are non-profit organizations that depend on passengers and airlines to pay the bills.
On average, the Halifax airport makes $100 million in annual revenue. Carter said she expects that number to be about half this year.
“When you come to the airport if you do buy a coffee or a burger, those agreements are with tenants and we do get a portion of that revenue,” she said. “So certainly no passengers at the terminal building, very few flights, mean very little revenue.”
Most food and beverage operators at the airport are closed, Carter said. Public seating is gone from the food courts, there are decals on the floor to promote physical distancing, and sections of the terminal are closed and lights are off to save money.
On Wednesday, there were just six flights on the board. Carter said that is down from an average of about 100. A flight last week to Toronto had just 14 people on it, she said.
“When we look at 2021, we expect to have passenger numbers equivalent to what we saw approximately in 1995. So that’s a pretty dramatic dip,” Carter said.
“The situation is very fluid so it changes quickly, but right now our predictions are to get back to 2019 passenger levels by 2024.”
In 2019, the Halifax airport had over 4.2 million travellers.
It won’t be until restrictions are lifted that Carter expects to see revenue to slowly start to climb again, likely starting with domestic traffic.
“People have to feel safe to travel, there’s no question about that,” she said.
The enhanced sanitization and physical distancing won’t end any time soon and she expects to also see a move toward a touchless environment.
“I was here for 9/11. When you look at post-9/11 there was dramatic changes from a security perspective. When I think about how it might look post-pandemic and I think about passenger screening and how screenings may change for health, I can see changes coming.”
She said the federal government’s rent relief for airports and the emergency wage subsidy program have been helpful, but they still need more.
She also said it’s hard to imagine that fees won’t go up for travellers.
“We certainly wouldn’t take a step like that lightly. It would be the absolutely last thing we would want to do. From our point of view, we will look at all other measures before that,” she said.