Ottawa pledges $2.7 million to support operations at regional airport in Sydney, N.S.

From CTV News – link to source story

Published Friday, July 16, 2021

J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport

Funding for the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport, located in Cape Breton, N.S., will come from the $206-million Regional Air Transportation Initiative launched by Ottawa in March.

SYDNEY, N.S. — The federal government is promising $2.7 million to help the airport in Sydney, N.S., recover from losses suffered because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funding for the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport, located in Cape Breton, N.S., will come from the $206-million Regional Air Transportation Initiative launched by Ottawa in March.

As COVID-19 travel restrictions across the Atlantic region ease, airlines have begun restoring flights in and out of Cape Breton.

Bob McNeil, chairman of the airport authority’s board of directors, said today in a news release the funding will allow the airport to continue to operate as travellers gradually begin to fly again.

Mike Kelloway, member of Parliament for Cape Breton-Canso, adds it’s important to maintain the jobs at the airport as the area moves toward a post-pandemic recovery.

The money will help maintain 11 full-time jobs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 16, 2021.

WestJet reconnecting Atlantic Canada routes

Airline to restart seven routes across Atlantic Canada by July 2

New non-stop service between Calgary-Charlottetown to launch on July 29

CALGARY, AB, June 25, 2021 /CNW/ -WestJet is further restoring Atlantic Canada’s domestic and interprovincial connectivity with the restart of seven routes to and from destinations across Ontario, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. The airline today also announced it will launch its new non-stop service to Charlottetown from Calgary on July 29. Full schedule details and resumption dates are outlined below.

“We continue to work towards the restoration of our pre-COVID domestic network to ensure that when our guests are ready to travel, we are there for them,” said John Weatherill, WestJet Chief Commercial Officer. “WestJet remains committed to building back stronger for the betterment of all Canadians and as we look ahead to reconnecting friends, family and loved ones, the safe restart of travel is essential to Canada’s economic recovery.”

Connecting Prince Edward Island to Alberta non-stop

After being delayed due to the pandemic, WestJet will bridge new domestic connections between the east and the west with the introduction of new twice-weekly non-stop service between Charlottetown, P.E.I., and Calgary beginning July 29. The service connecting the two provinces was previously scheduled to start in June 2020.

WestJet’s investments are critical to ensuring Atlantic Canada’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and by the end of June, the airline is set to restore commercial air service to Sydney, N.S., Deer Lake and Gander, Nfld., with the restart of flights from Halifax and Toronto.

“As WestJet leads the restart of travel across the Atlantic region, it is critical that we get clarity and guidance on travel policies from the federal government. The safe return of visitors to and from the region is key to recovery and we thank the Atlantic Premiers and their governments for the work they have done to prioritize the safe restart of travel. WestJet remains committed to affordably connecting Atlantic Canada to the rest of the country and the world,” said Angela Avery, WestJet Executive Vice-President.

This July, WestJet will offer non-stop service to Atlantic Canada from Halifax to six cities, from St. John’s to three cities, from Charlottetown to two cities and from Moncton, Fredericton, Deer Lake, Gander and Sydney to one city.

Love Where You’re Going Again – WestJet’s Latest Video

For more than 17 months, Canadians from coast-to-coast have been separated from the people and places they love. WestJet’s latest brand moment is a reminder to Canadians that it’s time to love where they’re going, again.

Atlantic Canada route restarts

Route Peak FrequencyRoute restart date
Charlottetown – Toronto  4x weeklyJune 25, 2021 
Fredericton – Toronto 1x dailyJune 26, 2021 
Deer Lake – Toronto 4x weeklyJune 27, 2021 
Halifax – Sydney 1x dailyJune 28, 2021 
Gander – Halifax 3x weeklyJune 30, 2021 
Moncton – Toronto 1x dailyJuly 1, 2021 
Halifax – Edmonton2x weeklyJuly 2, 2021
Charlottetown – Calgary *2x weeklyJuly 29, 2021
*New Route

About WestJet 

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.

UPDATED: Cape Breton debut of PAL Airlines may be facing another delay

From Saltwire – link to source story

Low booking reason for changing start date once more

Ian Nathanson · Updated: June 16, 2021

A PAL Airlines Dash 8-100 aircraft, the plane to be used when the carrier starts offering Sydney-Halifax flights. Service was expecting to start June 28, but now looks like it will launch the end of July. -- CONTRIBUTED
A PAL Airlines Dash 8-100 aircraft, the plane to be used when the carrier starts offering Sydney-Halifax flights. Service was expecting to start June 28, but now looks like it will launch the end of July. — CONTRIBUTED

SYDNEY, N.S. — The newest airline set to fly out of Sydney airport is expressing concern over the low number of bookings in place for its Sydney-Halifax route, and says it will be delaying its start date once again.

Janine Browne, PAL Airlines' director of business development and sales, says the airline has been watching Nova Scotia's plans to perhaps open up for domestic air travel. — CONTRIBUTED - Contributed
Janine Browne, PAL Airlines’ director of business development and sales, says the airline has been watching Nova Scotia’s plans to perhaps open up for domestic air travel. — CONTRIBUTED – Contributed

PAL Airlines announced during a presentation to Cape Breton Regional Municipality council that the June 28 scheduled launch of the airline at J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport will now be moved toward the end of July.

“It is a likely change — it has not been confirmed in our system just yet,” said Janine Browne, director of business development and sales for the St. John’s, N.L.-based airline. “We have not seen the bookings that we would like to have seen. We hope that that does change, and that bookings will pick up in the next month.”

Expanding outside the Newfoundland and Labrador area, PAL Airlines initially planned to launch at Sydney airport on May 31. Due to a surge in COVID-19 cases at the time and the ensuing “circuit-breaker” lockdown put into effect in Nova Scotia, that launch date was then pushed back to June 28.

With Nova Scotia just announcing its second phase of easing pandemic restrictions and its participation in the Atlantic bubble for June 23, Browne said she would like to see the Sydney-Halifax route “meet a demand that exists in the market, and that we’re able to launch a sustainable, long-term flight” for that route.

Browne told the Cape Breton Post that so far the date change appears to apply only to the Sydney-Halifax flight, “but we’re monitoring the demand in all the regions we’re deploying. It’s looking very strong in some regions, and it’s not in others.” 

BASED ON DEMAND

Sydney airport CEO Mike MacKinnon, who confirmed July 30 as PAL’s newest restart date, said the airline is taking these date adjustments seriously.

Mike MacKinnon - Contributed
Mike MacKinnon – Contributed

“Their business decisions are based on the demand out there,” he said. “And because of the uncertainty of the restrictions in our province, that has curtailed consumer demand up until this point.

“Now we, or the airline, might start to see bookings gather some steam with the news about the Atlantic bubble coming back and hopefully more good news will come in the conversations between the premiers to talk about reopening our region to the rest of Canada.”

PAL’s three-times-a-week departure schedule from Sydney and three-times-a-week arrival schedule from Halifax on alternate days will remain the same, Browne said.

Browne and PAL’s sales director Steve Short also told council of its pricing scale for the eventual launch: starting with an introductory price of $69 one-way — one of four different pricing levels offered.

More information is available at PAL Airlines’ website.

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.

Sydney airport CEO encouraged by entry of new regional airline

From CBC News – link to source story

Mike MacKinnon says new flights from PAL Airlines will add jobs, boost confidence among travellers

Tom Ayers · CBC News · May 26, 2021

The CEO of the airport in Sydney, N.S., is looking forward to the return of air travel at the end of June, especially with the addition of new flights from regional carrier PAL Airlines. (Submitted by PAL Airlines)

The CEO of the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport is looking forward to the resumption of air travel in the Atlantic region, and he’s especially excited about the new arrival of an airline from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mike MacKinnon said having PAL Airlines come into the Maritimes will create jobs and add options for travellers.

“Pre-pandemic, the airport itself had about 140 direct jobs at the airport … with the different entities that work here and we’re below 30 now, so anything is going to be an improvement over where we’ve been for the last year to 14, 15 months,” he said.

Commercial flights have been shut down at Atlantic airports since January. They were set to restart at the end of May, but the pandemic’s third wave put that on hold.

PAL Airlines has announced it will be flying out of Halifax, Charlottetown and Fredericton starting at the end of June and its inaugural flight out of Sydney, N.S., is on June 28.

WestJet plans to restart Sydney-to-Halifax flights on June 28, while Air Canada has said it is resuming flights from Sydney to Toronto and Montreal on June 26 and from Sydney to Halifax on July 1.

Janine Browne, director of business development and sales with PAL Airlines, says the company identified gaps in the regional marketplace and has the equipment and staff to fill them. (Submitted by PAL Airlines)

MacKinnon said adding flight choices in Sydney will boost confidence among travellers.

“It’s the road to recovery,” he said. “It’s encouraging to see that we’ve got a new carrier who are going to be operating interregional routes around Atlantic Canada and that’s great for our airport.”

Janine Browne, director of business development and sales with PAL Airlines, said the company identified gaps in the regional marketplace and already has the equipment and staff to fill them.

“It’s a huge expansion,” she said.

“Our team is very excited that, during this challenging time, that we are able to do this.”

The airline is starting from Sydney with a 37-seat Dash 8 that can also carry cargo.

‘People are really, really eager to travel,’ says PAL spokesperson

Browne said the company is prepared to operate in a new environment, given differing health restrictions in each province.

“We’re obviously keeping a close eye on government restrictions and respecting that, but we think it’s going to be the right time and we think that people are really, really eager to travel,” she said.

“People are looking to get on that plane. People are looking to get in the air and fly.”

PAL announced its plans to fly out of Sydney on Tuesday morning and by midday, had already taken some bookings, Browne said.

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.

Details of Financial Support to Air Canada

From: Department of Finance Canada | 12 April 2021

Backgrounder

The government’s financial support to Air Canada is being provided under the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF). The Canada Enterprise Emergency Funding Corporation (CEEFC) has committed to provide $4 billion in repayable loans and an equity investment in Air Canada of $500 million in newly-issued Class B Voting Shares at a 15 per cent discount to their recent trading price. CEEFC will also receive warrants on Air Canada stock in an amount equal to 10 per cent of the loan commitments (CEEFC’s news release contains detailed information regarding the warrants).

As a condition of its agreement with CEEFC, Air Canada has made a number of commitments as outlined below.

Refunds for Canadians

The agreement with Air Canada ensures that customers who had their flights cancelled, or took action to cancel a flight because of the pandemic, are not financially disadvantaged. Under the terms of the financing agreement, Air Canada has committed to offer refunds to any passenger who wants a refund for certain pandemic-related cancelations by the carrier that CEEFC will finance. Air Canada has committed to providing customers with their refunds as soon as possible – beginning April 30, 2021 at the latest. CEEFC will provide additional loan financing of up to $1.4 billion for Air Canada to provide these refunds. Travel agents may assist in the processing of refunds for tickets the travel agents sold but will not be required to refund their commission to Air Canada.

Protecting Jobs

As a condition of the agreement with CEEFC, Air Canada has committed to maintain jobs at current levels, to respect collective bargaining agreements, and protect workers’ pensions. Air Canada currently has 14,859 active Canadian employees.

As required more generally under LEEFF, Air Canada has also agreed to restrictions on dividends, buying back shares, and executive compensation. The company will also provide climate-related financial disclosures, including how its future operations will support environmental sustainability and national climate goals.

Restarting Vital Domestic Air Services

The terms of the financial support will ensure that Canadians and communities retain air connections to the rest of Canada, through the restart of service at airports temporarily suspended by Air Canada. For seven airports where Air Canada had permanently canceled service, the airline will seek interline agreements with other carriers with a view to ensure those Canadians continue to have convenient access to their preferred airports and the flights they need.

Service will resume by no later than June 1, 2021, at the following suspended airports based on public health advice:

  • Bathurst
  • Comox
  • Fredericton
  • Gander
  • Goose Bay
  • Kamloops
  • North Bay
  • Penticton
  • Prince Rupert
  • Saint John
  • Sandspit
  • Sydney
  • Yellowknife

Supporting Jobs in Canada’s Aerospace Industry

The aerospace industry supported 235,000 Canadian jobs and contributed over $28 billion in gross domestic product to the Canadian economy in 2019.

This financing agreement will allow Air Canada to continue to be a vital customer of the Canadian aerospace industry by completing its planned purchase of aircraft as set out in its business plan, which includes aircraft built in Canada, such as the Airbus A220. Aerospace is one of the most innovative and export-driven industries in Canada. The negative impact of the pandemic on the bottom line of airlines has put the relationship between airlines and the aerospace industry at risk, threatening job security in the sector. Ensuring that Air Canada maintains its status as a key customer of Canada’s aerospace industry is important to ensuring the long term success of the sector and the thousands of jobs it supports.

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. 

Cape Breton aviation company hopes to fill void in the sky

From CBC News – link to source story

With Air Canada and WestJet no longer flying into Sydney airport, Celtic Air Services is ramping up charters

Tom Ayers · CBC News · Posted: Feb 12, 2021

Celtic Air Services president Dave Morgan says with the major airlines scaling back flights in Atlantic Canada, now is the time to launch an airplane charter service in Cape Breton. (Brent Kelloway/CBC)

A Cape Breton company is hoping to take advantage of a market opportunity after two major airlines scaled back scheduled flights in Atlantic Canada.

Celtic Air Services took over operations at the Allan J. MacEachen Airport in Port Hawkesbury, N.S., in 2017 and began offering helicopter tours in the region two years later.

The company recently bought a Quebec-based airplane charter business to add to its growing list of services.

“The major airlines pulling out of a lot of spots and cutting down on their regional flights definitely played into our hands,” said Celtic Air president Dave Morgan. “Definitely good luck and good timing.”

WestJet suspended many flights last fall and Air Canada soon followed suit. Both cited lack of demand as passenger traffic dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since January, neither airline has flown out of the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport.

Last summer, Celtic Air Services bought AxAir Aviation of Quebec, which comes with three full-time staff and a Cessna airplane that seats up to five passengers. (Brent Kelloway/CBC)

Morgan said he had always planned to add airplane charters to his business, but the lack of scheduled flights in the region created an opening he couldn’t pass up.

 “We’re a Cape Breton company so for now, we’re eyeing up Cape Breton airports, be it Sydney and Hawkesbury for now,” he said.

“In the summer, we can get into some of the smaller airports, as well.”

Celtic Air has nine employees. Last summer, the company bought AxAir Aviation, which comes with three full-time employees and a Cessna airplane that seats five passengers.

Morgan said the pandemic has slowed his business plans a little. Pilots had to go to the United States for training on flight simulators and they are now finishing ground school at the Port Hawkesbury airport.

The plane arrived in Cape Breton on Thursday and Morgan said he hopes to be up and running in a month.

He said the market opportunity already exists and he expects to be flying into northern Labrador, Quebec, Ontario, Atlantic Canada and the eastern U.S.

Already planning growth

“Right now, there’s huge troubles for folks that work away and folks that work throughout Atlantic Canada,” said Morgan.

“The drive from Sydney to Saint John, New Brunswick, is a long one for an engineering firm that’s sending workers back and forth on a project each week, and without connectivity from the airlines, we think the charter air is going to be an option for them.”

Morgan said he’s already planning to add another plane and more pilots as business takes off.

“The goal is definitely to add to the fleet and consider where the market leads us as we go. We definitely think that it’s going to be a bigger plane next,” he said.

Sydney airport CEO says no assistance coming from federal government

From Cape Breton Post – link to source story

Sharon Montgomery | February 11, 2021

The J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport hasn't had air service as of Jan. 11, 2021. Sharon Montgomery-Dupe/Cape Breton Post
The J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport hasn’t had air service as of Jan. 11, 2021. Sharon Montgomery-Dupe/Cape Breton Post

SYDNEY, N.S. — Officials at the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport feel the federal government is not very familiar with Cape Breton’s major travel hub.

In a story in Thursday’s edition of the Cape Breton Post, the federal government said they have provided help to the airport. Sydney airport CEO Mike MacKinnon said the programs mentioned don’t make a difference to their situation. They are receiving no help and are operating on reserves.

In the Thursday story, Katherine Cuplinskas, press secretary for the office of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland, said since the beginning of the pandemic, the air sector has received over $1.7 billion in support through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and based on the wage subsidy registry, Sydney airport has been able to benefit from the program. As well, she said small airports — like the Sydney airport — will have their rent payments waved for 2021, 2022 and 2023.

MacKinnon said the Sydney Airport Authority is a not-for-profit organization operating under the Nova Scotia Societies Act. All of the airport’s buildings, facilities and land are owned by the Sydney Airport Authority. As a result, the airport authority doesn’t pay any rent to the federal government. 

“So there are actually no rent payments to waive, something the feds should be well aware of,” he said. “We will see no benefit from the waiving of federal rent payments, something that larger airports in Canada will receive.”

MacKinnon said as far as the wage subsidy, it goes to any business that has suffered huge losses in revenue, so not just airports.

The fact that airports, airlines, tourism and businesses get it is simply a testament to how severe their losses have been due to the pandemic. 

“We certainly appreciate having access to it but let’s be clear it is not something that only we get. Hundreds of businesses big and small across the country that have been decimated are getting it,” he said. “It is not some special program for airports.”

For months now, MacKinnon has been advocating for the federal government to step in with long-promised help and the need for a recovery plan for the air sector. 

On Thursday, Cuplinskas clarified the CEO of the Sydney airport is right, the airport doesn’t qualify for rent relief. 

Cuplinskas reiterated previous comments that any further taxpayer support for the air sector will prioritize refunding Canadians for cancelled flights, retaining and reinstating regional routes in Nova Scotia and across Canada and protecting jobs and workers across the air sector and maintaining a vibrant, competitive Canadian air sector and Canadian airlines is a priority.

Sharon-Montgomery-Dupe is a health and breaking news reporter at the Cape Breton Post.