Air Canada's decision to suspend its direct flight was surprising, but may be part of a long term strategy to maintain control of international flights out of Edmonton, says business magazine publisher Ruth Kelly.

"It's a shocking result," Kelly told CBC Edmonton AM's Mark Connolly. "Shocking to see a company like Air Canada choosing to be as overt in its .... punitive response to legitimate competition in the marketplace."

Kelly, who publishes Alberta Venture and Alberta Oil magazines, said the move may be part of a strategy to keep the northern Alberta region to itself.

"Air Canada is known to defend its market share aggressively," she said. "It wouldn't surprise me if .... (Air Canada) is flexing their muscle a little with the airport to say, 'when you choose to bring in legitimate competition, we will make alternative choices for ourselves as well."

It's a risky strategy, she said.

"If I was a company, I'm not sure I would think I should remove my presence from this region."

"This is a catchment region of over two million people. It's the fastest growing population in Canada and the fastest growing economic activity."

Still, Edmonton is dependent on its international flights and needs to fight back.

"This is a vulnerable area," she said. "We are landlocked. We are not close to a border. We can't drive into the U.S.

Kelly said passengers with top-tier flight status with Air Canada should make their displeasure known, while Aeroplan card holders might think about sending their cards in with a note saying "until this is remedied ... I can't participate in your program."

This week a letter from Air Canada to the Edmonton International Airport Authority criticizing the CEO for promoting a Icelandair transatlantic flight became public.

The letter was sent earlier this month when Air Canada announced it was suspending its London direct flight from January through March.