Canadian airlines return to Puerto Vallarta after 4-month hiatus

From Mexico Daily News – link to source story

Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit are looking forward to the Canadians coming back. Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit are looking forward to the Canadians coming back.

Canadian airlines return to Puerto Vallarta after 4-month hiatus

One airline has already reactivated flights, and three more have confirmed dates

Published on Thursday, June 17, 2021

Canadian airlines are reactivating flights to Puerto Vallarta after a four-month suspension.

Westjet reinitiated its flights to the Jalisco beach destination on June 5, and Air Canada will be next with the reopening of its Vancouver route on August 1.

Low cost airline Swoop plans to restart its Hamilton and Edmonton flights October 5, and its Abbotsford and Toronto routes on November 3. It will also inaugurate a new route from Winnipeg on November 4.

Transat will relaunch flights from Toronto and Montreal in November.

Sunwing is still yet to inform clients of its plans to reopen, but has previously announced it hopes to reestablish its Mexico routes in December.

Marc Murphy, lead of the Riviera Nayarit Visitors and Conventions Office, said Canadians would be happy for the change of climate. “Each year, thousands of Canadians travel to this region to escape the intense winter cold and find an enviable climate, the most beautiful beaches … and a great quality hotel offering,” he said.

With reports from Reportur

Central Mountain Air Adds Campbell River to Network

Thanks to CW

CAMPBELL RIVER PRESS RELEASE.png

(Smithers, BC, June 17th, 2021)

17 June 2021 – Central Mountain Air adds Campbell River via Vancouver and Prince George to their Summer Flight Network with 16 flights per week.    

Central Mountain Air (CMA) announced today that it will add Campbell River to its network with 16 flights per week beginning Monday, July 12, 2021, and continuing through to Saturday, November 6, 2021. Scheduled service will include 12 non-stop flights per week to/from Vancouver and 4 non-stop flights per week to/from Prince George.   

These flights will focus on adding convenient times and connections to their expanding network. “We are excited to be offering a great new option from the area to Northern B.C.” shared CMA Head of Commercial Michael Claeren, “the connections to Terrace, Fort St John, and Fort Nelson are well-timed for mid-morning arrival and mid-afternoon return”. He continued, “we are also happy to be re-entering the Campbell River to Vancouver market, after having suspended operations due to COVID-19 just over a year ago”.  

With reopening plans moving forward in both British Columbia and Alberta, CMA is optimistic about the future of air travel as restrictions ease and we continue on the road to recovery. CMA looks forward to continuing to connect communities, loved ones, workforces, and provide an essential service to the communities that need it.   

Other new routes already announced that will start on June 28 are non-stop flights from Edmonton to/from Fort St John, High Level, and Grande Prairie, as well as non-stop flights from Vancouver to/from Quesnel. 

CMA is the independent regional airline leader in British Columbia and Alberta with 29 aircraft and looks forward to more fully utilizing that fleet.  

See CMA’s full schedule at flycma.com/schedule  

About Central Mountain Air Ltd.    

Established in 1987, CMA is a Western Canadian privately owned and operated company. CMA provides scheduled flights to twelve communities, cargo to ten, and charter flights throughout British Columbia, Alberta, and Western Canada. For more information, and to learn about CMA’s enhanced COVID-19 safety procedures, visit flycma.com.

Flair Airlines Celebrates 20th Destination, Announcing Service to Grande Prairie, Alberta With Flights Available for Less Than $40

The fast-growing ULCC is adding non-stop service to the Northern Alberta community from Toronto and Vancouver with flights starting at just $39

Edmonton, Alberta, June 16, 2021 – Flair Airlines, Canada’s only independent ultra low-cost carrier (ULCC), continues its growth with the addition of service to Grande Prairie, Alberta. Flights will begin in August and for less than the cost of a meal for two people, customers can access non-stop service to Toronto and Vancouver.

“Canadians are tired of being gouged for air travel and Flair is excited to bring our low fares to a fourth Alberta market,” says Garth Lund, Chief Commercial Officer. Flair continues to deliver tremendous value to underserved communities where restoring affordable regional travel will help reignite the Canadian economy.”

Service to Grande Prairie (IATA: YQU) will be twice a week for both non-stop routes. Vancouver flights will begin August 1 with evening flights on Wednesdays and Sundays. Toronto flights will begin August 4 with afternoon flights on Wednesday and Saturdays.

Grande Prairie is the 20th destination served by Flair Airlines as it grows rapidly to meet the demand for low fare travel across Canada. Flair’s fleet of aircraft is growing with the addition of 13 new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft joining its existing fleet of 737-800.

Examples of one-way base fares currently available are listed below. All base fares include taxes and fees, and there are limited seats and limited availability.

  • Grande Prairie (YQU) to Vancouver (YVR): $39 one way, inc. taxes and fees. Travel on August 4.
  • Vancouver (YVR) to Grande Prairie (YQU): $39 one way, inc. taxes and fees. Travel on August 4.
  • Grande Prairie (YQU) to Toronto (YYZ): $49 one way, inc. taxes and fees. Travel on August 7.
  • Toronto (YYZ) to Grande Prairie (YQU): $49 one way, inc. taxes and fees. Travel on August 7.

About Flair Airlines

Flair Airlines is Canada’s only independent Ultra Low-Cost Carrier (ULCC) and is on a mission to liberate the lives of Canadians by providing affordable air travel that connects them to the people and experiences they love. With an expanding fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft, Flair is growing to serve 19 cities across Canada. For more information, please visit www.flyflair.com 

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.

Flair Airlines Begins Service to Ottawa

The fast-growing ULCC is adding service to 8 destinations from Ottawa

EDMONTON, Alberta, June 11, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Flair Airlines, Canada’s only independent ultra low-cost carrier (ULCC), continues its growth with the addition of service to Ottawa International Airport (IATA: YOW) in Ontario starting today. The ULCC is adding low fare flights between Ottawa and eight Canadian cities.

Ottawa flights in June will provide non-stop service to Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Calgary. In August, the schedule grows with the addition of service to Halifax, Kelowna and Abbotsford.

“We are delighted to start operations at our newest base in Ottawa,” says Garth Lund, Chief Commercial Officer. “Just in time for summer, we are bringing affordable travel options with one way fares as low as $49 on several routes. By August, we will have two aircraft based in Ottawa and provide non-stop, low fares to eight cities while creating more than 70 jobs in the community.”

Ottawa is among several new destinations Flair is adding to its network as the airline grows to serve 19 Canadian cities. Flair’s first of 13 new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft started passenger service on June 10 and more of the new aircraft are joining the fleet throughout 2021.

Listed below are examples of one-way base fares currently available. All base fares include taxes and fees, and there are limited seats and limited availability.

  • Ottawa to Halifax: $49 one way, travel on October 14, 2021
  • Ottawa to Abbotsford: $59 one way, travel on September 9, 2021
  • Ottawa to Toronto: $49 one way, travel on July 7, 2021
  • Ottawa to Winnipeg: $49 one way, travel on October 27, 2021
  • Ottawa to Edmonton: $49 one way, travel on September 10, 2021
  • Ottawa to Calgary: $49 one way, travel on November 11, 2021
  • Ottawa to Vancouver: $59 one way, travel on October 26, 2021
  • Ottawa to Kelowna: $59 one way, travel on October 23, 2021

About Flair Airlines

Flair Airlines is Canada’s only independent Ultra Low-Cost Carrier (ULCC) and is on a mission to liberate the lives of Canadians by providing affordable air travel that connects them to the people and experiences they love. With an expanding fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft, Flair is growing to serve 19 cities across Canada. For more information, please visit www.flyflair.com

WestJet to offer Canadians the most flights to Hawaii this winter

Airline flying more flights than any other Canadian airline with additional Dreamliner service and new direct flights from Calgary to Kona and Lihue

CALGARY, AB, June 10, 2021 /CNW/ – WestJet today announced significant growth to its Hawaii network, featuring more Dreamliner flight options from Western Canada to Maui and new non-stop service from Calgary to Kona and Lihue this winter. With 57 weekly roundtrip flights on 10 nonstop routes, WestJet offers more service between Canada and Hawaii than any other airline.

“With easing travel restrictions, we know our guests are planning to turn their long-awaited Hawaiian getaway dreams into a well-deserved reality.” said John Weatherill, WestJet, Chief Commercial Officer. “We’ve increased our winter service to Hawaii by more than 25 per cent from 2019 to ensure our guests have increased flexibility and the most affordable, non-stop options from Western Canada.”

New service from Calgary to Kona and Lihue

WestJet is adding new weekly non-stop service from Calgary (YYC) to Kona (KOA) and Lihue (LIH) beginning in December. With the addition of the new service, WestJet will offer service to four Hawaiian destinations non-stop from Calgary and two from Edmonton.

“Our guests will love to say aloha to the additional direct flights to tropical Hawaii,” said Bob Sartor, President & CEO, The Calgary Airport Authority. “We’re ready to welcome guests back safely to the home and hub of WestJet and we look forward to the added sunny winter options for Albertans and connecting passengers from out of province.”

More 787 Dreamliner options

Starting this winter, WestJet will add 787 Dreamliner service from Calgary and Vancouver to Kahului, Maui (OGG) with 13 weekly flights. WestJet’s 787 service to Maui from Western Canada is conveniently scheduled with daytime departures to ensure guests arrive in Maui in the early afternoon, with time to make the most out of their plans. The airline’s signature Dreamliner service features lie-flat seats with on-demand dining and entertainment.

“Like the Kolea bird, many Canadians return each year to the Hawaiian Islands during the winter months,” said David Y. Ige, Governor, Hawaii. “They respect the people, place and culture, and we welcome them back. Increased international passengers can help us better balance the needs of our residents and visitors. Mahalo to WestJet for partnering with the state to keep residents and visitors alike safe and healthy.”

“We are very happy with the launch of WestJet’s additional routes to Hawai’i,” said  Lorenzo Campos, Account Director for Hawai’i Tourism Canada. “We would like to thank WestJet for being our trusted partner and for their continuous support of The Hawaiian Island and sharing the aloha spirit and always embracing the Hawaiian value of malama. We are looking forward to welcoming our Canadian family back this winter.” 

Current Hawaii entrance requirements can be found at https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel/.

Earlier this week, WestJet launched its Travel Ready Series aimed to welcome guests back to travel. Travel Ready was created to ensure guests are equipped and prepared with the information they need to enjoy a smooth and safe return to the skies.

WestJet route and schedule frequency

Market787 Peak Frequency737 Peak FrequencyEffective
Calgary-Maui6x weekly1x weeklyNovember 5, 2021
Calgary-Honolulu7x weeklyDecember 3, 2021
Calgary-Kona*1x weeklyDecember 19, 2021
Calgary-Lihue*1x weeklyDecember 19, 2021
Vancouver – Maui**7x weekly3x weeklyOctober 31, 2021
Vancouver-Honolulu**14x weeklyOctober 31, 2021
Vancouver-Kona7x weeklyOctober 31, 2021
Vancouver-Lihue7x weeklyOctober 31, 2021
Edmonton-Maui2x weeklyDecember 12, 2021
Edmonton-Honolulu1x weeklyDecember 18, 2021

*New routes added to WestJet’s winter schedule serving Hawaii.

**Service currently operating in WestJet’s summer schedule.

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.

Flair Airlines Extends Domestic Schedule into 2022

The growing ULCC has released its Winter 2021/22 schedule for sale with fares starting from as low as $19

Edmonton, Alberta, May 27, 2021 – Flair Airlines, Canada’s only independent ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC), has expanded its schedule with flights to domestic destinations now on sale until March 2022.  With 24 routes and over 650,000 seats on sale, Winter 2021/22 will be Flair’s biggest ever winter schedule.

The winter schedule is part of Flair’s expansion of service to bring low fare air travel to more Canadians. The airline has 13 new aircraft on order joining the fleet in 2021 and 2022.

“We understand how keen Canadians are to travel again and our winter schedule will provide affordable air travel options to help connect the many families and friends who have been apart for the past year,” says Garth Lund, Chief Commercial Officer. “With fares available from as low as $19 and new aircraft joining the fleet, Flair will continue its expansion into the winter season.”

Bookings are now available for travel through March 26, 2022.

https://flyflair.com/where-we-fly

“We’re a business based on runways”: Air Canada, WestJet join other industry players calling for a roadmap for recovery

From Travelweek Group – link to source story

Date: May 28 2021

By: Kathryn Folliott

“We're a business based on runways”: Air Canada, WestJet join other industry players calling for a roadmap for recovery

“We’re a business based on runways”: Air Canada, WestJet join other industry players calling for a roadmap for recovery

TORONTO — The urgent need for a clear roadmap for Canada’s recovery coming out of the pandemic, especially where travel is concerned, was underlined by a panel of travel industry executives including Air Canada’s President and CEO Michael Rousseau and WestJet’s VP Government Relations & Regulatory Affairs Andy Gibbons at a webinar yesterday presented by the Canadian Airports Council (CAC).

Rousseau and Gibbons were joined on the panel by airport executives Tamara Vrooman (YVR) and Philippe Rainville (YUL), plus David Goldstein (Travel Alberta) and Patrick Doyle (American Express GTB). The panel was hosted by Perrin Beatty with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and was part of the CAC’s 90-minute webinar on Air Travel Recovery in Canada.

While several provincial governments including Ontario, Quebec, B.C. and Alberta have come out with with step-by-step reopening plans, the federal government has not, said Beatty. “The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has been urging the government for a clear path for reopening,” he said. “But we’re still lacking a clear and predictable plan for the country.”

And as YVR’s Vrooman pointed out, a plan for reopening Canada’s borders isn’t just about the travel industry, it’s about Canada’s economic recovery overall. “I can’t speak strongly enough that this isn’t just related to our industry,” said Vrooman.

As the travel industry well knows, other countries and regions, including the U.S. and the EU, are reopening and, in the case of the EU and other countries, readying digital systems to confirm proof of vaccination, immunity through previous transmission of COVID-19, or negative tests.

Canada is working with its G7 counterparts to align Canada’s documentation with whatever systems are in place, as confirmed in recent months by Transport Minister Omar Alghabra and Health Minister Patty Hajdu.

Air Canada’s Rousseau stressed how important that alignment is for Canada’s recovery. “We have to get a solution on vaccine passports that’s coordinated with the G7 countries,” he said.

WestJet’s Gibbons summed it up: “All we really want is travel guidance based on the latest science. That’s what we want and that’s what we need.” Other countries have done that as a matter of course, said Gibbons, but “Canada has not.”

And as YVR’s Vrooman puts it, “We’re a business based on runways. What we need is a runway and a clear line of sight.”

After close to 15 months of an almost complete travel shutdown, it’s not just the airlines and airports calling for a reopening plan. “For the thousandth millionth time, give us a plan,” said Brett Walker, GM, Collette (Canada) earlier this month, echoing the frustrations of many retail travel agents, tour operators and other suppliers.

Yesterday’s webinar coincided with the CAC’s release of a whitepaper on aviation recovery, ‘Holding Pattern: Canada needs a Swift Recovery and Competitive Air Sector.’

Here are some of the points from the CAC-commission whitepaper, presented during the webinar by Solomon Wong, CEO, InterVistas:

  • The number of passengers that moved through Canada’s airports in April 2021 was 9% of 2019’s levels.
  • Direct connectivity fell more than 90% across all Canadian regions in April 2020 versus April 2019. The picture for 2021 is just as dire, says the CAC, with direct connectivity falling even further compared to 2019.
  • According to the CAC’s analysis, if increased costs for the aviation supply were to lead to a 25% increase in airfares, that would suppress 20% of passenger traffic (demand). Based on passenger traffic at Canadian airports in 2019, the expected loss in passenger demand would equate to roughly 16 million passengers – roughly three airports the size of Ottawa.
  • In 2019, the average airfare paid by passengers in Canada was approximately $470, and there were approximately 162 million passengers at Canada’s airports. In the case of a hypothetical 25% and 50% increase in the price of air travel in Canada, the resulting average airfare would be approximately $590 and $705.
  • The longer the recovery, the more difficult it will be for Canada’s airlines to compete in the same international aviation markets also served by foreign carriers, who may have a financial advantage over Canadian airlines due to government support these airlines may have received throughout the pandemic.
  • The loss in passenger traffic has resulted in sharp reductions in overall airline capacity – measured by the number of seats available – at Canadian airports, some of which have lost all commercial air services during the pandemic (e.g., Toronto Billy Bishop Airport, Saint John Airport, Sydney Airport (Nova Scotia), and Prince Rupert Airport, among others). Medium-size airports such as Winnipeg and Regina have also been impacted, losing almost 80% of airline capacity and all direct international services.
  • In terms of airline seat capacity, Canada has fallen from 16th to 23rd in the world, with capacity down roughly 80%.
  • Direct connectivity fell more than 90% across all Canadian regions in April 2020 versus April 2019.
  • The whitepaper also suggests that Canada’s aviation sector would benefit from deploying a recovery agenda that is at least in part compatible with that already initiated by the U.S., Canada’s largest trading partner.

He spent 7 months living in an airport, until Canada took him in. Now he’s written a book about it

From CBC Radio – link to source story

When the world’s eyes were on Hassan Al Kontar, it was a group of Canadians who brought him to safety

CBC Radio · May 24, 2021

Hassan Al Kontar, pictured here holding his bag in a busy airport, spent seven months living at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport before being granted asylum in Canada in 2018. (Submitted by Hassan Al Kontar)

Link to listen to CBC Radio He spent 7 months living in an airport, until Canada took him in. Now he’s written a book about it

Coffee has been a lifeline for Hassan Al Kontar since the war broke out in Syria.

The former refugee spent seven months living in legal limbo at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport in 2018, and two more in immigration detention, before finding asylum in Canada.

During that time, he was always on the hunt for his next cup of coffee. Sometimes a kind traveller would recognize him from the news and buy him a fresh cup. Once, someone hooked him up with a can of instant coffee, which he’d mix with water from the airport’s fountains.

“It’s not the cup itself; it’s what it’s representing. Those who dance on the edge of life and play with death on a daily basis, they love life the most and they find excitement and joy in the smallest thing in life, because it has been taken away from them. The smallest things become their hint of being normal people and free people,” Al Kontar told As It Happens host Carol Off. “That’s what coffee is for.”

In his new memoir, Man at the Airport: How Social Media Saved My Life – One Syrian’s Story, Al Kontar describes his nine-month journey — from the moment he was barred from boarding a flight out of Malaysia to the day he finally arrived in Vancouver, greeted by the Canadian volunteers who made it happen.

“That’s why my story is not only the Syrian war story. It’s also [about] a country called Canada and people called Canadians,” he said. “Because of them, I am now permanently safe.”

Al Kontar was working as a salesman in the United Arab Emirates when civil war broke out in Syria, and the U.A.E. refused to renew his visa. If he went home, he knew he’d be conscripted into mandatory military service under the Syrian regime.

“I refused to join the call because I did not want to be a part of a killing machine to kill my own people or to destroy my own house,” he said.

He remained in the U.A.E. illegally until he was caught in 2017 and sent to Malaysia, one of the few countries that would accept Syrian travellers.

Al Kontar, left, has written a book, pictured on the right, about his unique refugee experience. (Submitted by Hassan Al Kontar, Tidewater Press)

Once there, Al Kontar was granted a three-month tourist visa but was not eligible to claim asylum, so he worked under the table for a year, scrounging enough money to buy a ticket to Ecuador, where he has family. His mother and sister back home sold their gold necklaces to help cover the cost.

But when he arrived for his flight, the airline refused to let him board. He tried to fly instead to Cambodia but was denied entry by immigration authorities and sent back to Kuala Lumpur.

“That’s when I knew that I’m out of options, out of solutions. I’m stateless now. I cannot go anywhere,” he said.

‘Make some noise’ 

Al Kontar’s only tool was his phone, so he used it.

At first, he says, he tried all of the official channels — calling and emailing refugee agencies, NGOs, and foreign ministers and embassies in countries that might help him.

“I knew that none of this was going to work, but I did it anyway because I was desperate and hopeless,” he said. “When they all came back with the negative, with ‘Sorry, we cannot do anything,’ then I decided I’m going to make it American-style. Now let us make some noise.”

Al Kontar started live-tweeting his life at the airport. Then came the media firestorm. His story — reminiscent of the 2004 Tom Hanks movie The Terminal — resonated around the world.

His first Canadian interview was with As It Happens in April 2018.

“I remember myself saying that I don’t want to screw it up. This is my chance. This is me speaking to the Canadians directly for the first time,” Al Kontar said.

After it was over, he says he grinned. He knew he nailed it.

“From that time on, I found my purpose in life. I was telling my story and my people’s story,” he said. “It did not matter what was going to happen. I became proud of what I was doing.”

But underneath that pride and storytelling was shame and silence as he remembered his mother and siblings back home.

“In my culture as an Arab, I’m the the eldest, I’m the older son, I’m the one who’s supposed to take care of my family when they need me. Yet for years, they were the ones who took care of me,” Al Kontar said.

“That kind of sadness, being ashamed of not being able to help them or to play my role as an oldest son, is what made me hide things from them. I did not tell them that I was stuck at the airport. They came to know from the news itself.”

His mother was understandably worried, Al Kontar says, but she took comfort knowing he wasn’t alone. A group of volunteers, headed by Laurie Cooper of Whistler, B.C., learned about Al Kontar’s plight and organized on his behalf.

Cooper dubbed herself Al Kontar’s “Canadian mom.” She crowdsourced money for him, helped him navigate the asylum system, lobbied the government and co-ordinated with air travellers around the world to hook him up with food, money and supplies — including, of course, his much beloved coffee.

“They restored my faith in humanity,” he said.

Laurie Cooper, left, beams at Al Kontar after he finally arrived at the Vancouver International Airport in November 2018. (Ben Nelms/The Canadian Press)

After seven months at the airport, Al Kontar was detained by Malaysian authorities. Once again, he found himself relying on the simple pleasures of a morning coffee and maybe a smoke to get him through the days.

“Sometimes it was all that I could think of when I was in detention jail in Malaysia for two months. Each and every morning, I told myself if there was a cup of coffee and a cigarette, things would be easier,” he said.

We don’t normally have dreams or fairy tales. Fairy tales are for kids. In my case, yes, my fairy tale became true.- Hassan Al Kontar, author of Man at the Airport 

The other thing that got him through was knowing that his Canadian friends were still fighting for him. The Whistler residents teamed up with the B.C. Muslim Association and offered to sponsor him as a refugee in Canada. 

Their work paid off when the Canadian government and a lawyer hired by Cooper quietly negotiated Al Kontar’s release.

He is now a permanent resident in Abbotsford, B.C., where he advocates on behalf of other refugees.

Al Kontar, pictured here with a snowy winter backdrop, says he couldn’t stop staring at the falling snow when he first arrived in Whistler, B.C. (Submitted by Hassan Al Kontar)

Al Kontar remembers his first week in Canada, staying with Cooper and her family at their cabin in Whistler and watching the snow fall.

“I kept running outside with my cup of coffee, looking and looking at the snow falling and telling myself, ‘Man, act cool. It’s not the first time you’ve seen the snow. Don’t be like a child who is wearing his Christmas clothes.’ But I could not help it. I was a child, and I was so happy I could not sleep for days sitting next to the wood stove watching the snow,” he said.

“I think for us as adults, we have goals we need to achieve. We don’t normally have dreams or fairy tales. Fairy tales are for kids. In my case, yes, my fairy tale became true. And I was living my fairy tale in Whistler, having food on my table and having a family, Laurie’s family, feeling safe.”


Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong. 

Innotech-Execaire Aviation Group Launches its Prestige Concierge Service

MONTREAL, May 17, 2021 /CNW Telbec/ – Innotech-Execaire Aviation Group (“IEAG”) announced today that it has expanded the Concierge services capability of both of its Aircraft Management and Charter operating units for the benefit of its clients via the introduction of its Prestige Concierge Service by IEAG.

With aircraft based across Canada including Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver, the Prestige Concierge Service will help IEAG engage its customers by opening doors to high-touch personalized service, a wealth of special offers, as well as access to extraordinary experiences. This service expansion speaks to IEAG’s unwavering commitment to improving the customer experience and establishing a true travel support capability for our valued clients.

This Prestige Concierge Service is a true testament to our customer service philosophy and our efforts to consistently and continuously improve the travel experience for our clients, said Michael Fedele, President, Innotech-Execaire Aviation Group.

Since 1967, corporate aircraft owners have trusted IEAG to manage their aircraft with a fully-integrated service offering and unique capability that supports its customers throughout their aircraft life-cycle.

This new Service will allow IEAG clients to benefit from offers and privileges worldwide across a wide range of lifestyle services, including hotels and villas, VIP experiences, culinary adventures, exquisite vacation packages and more.

We have been providing dedicated Concierge services to our client for years, however we are extremely excited to be launching this service enhancement in response to our clients’ growing full-service travel needs. This is an important milestone in our services evolution and reinforces our 100% commitment to providing a true lifestyles support experience for our customers, said Michael Fedele, President, Innotech-Execaire Aviation Group.

About Innotech-Execaire Aviation Group

IEAG is a leading full-service provider of aviation and technical support services to business aircraft OEMs, owners, operators, and commercial airlines. Based in Montreal, Quebec, IEAG offers a full range of aircraft interior/exterior refurbishment and technical services, including non-destructive testing, and has maintenance capabilities and FBO services at airports across Canada including a long history supporting Cessna aircraft from our Authorized Service Facility at Toronto Pearson for over 40 years. With a comprehensive fleet of business aircraft under management, IEAG has complete flight operations capabilities, as well as a large portion of its business jet fleet available for charter under the Execaire and Image Air brands.

IEAG is a business unit of IMP Group, a Halifax-based company focused on global sustainable growth, and with over 3,500 experienced people delivering service, quality and value to customers across diverse sectors, such as aerospace, aviation, healthcare, information technology, hospitality, and property development.