Air Canada cut 7 routes in N.L. Tuesday
CBC News · Posted: Jul 02, 2020
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.
With files from Labrador Morning