Medicine Hat airport loses commercial flight activity — for now
Facility remains open for flight school, charter planes
The Medicine Hat Regional Airport will no longer have any commercial flight activity, after two of its airlines pulled flights temporarily.
WestJet's last flight was a week ago and Air Canada pulled its domestic flights in March of last year.
Airport manager Jeff Huntus says he is disappointed but not surprised.
"To put it in perspective, we did in 2019, 75,000 passengers. So far in 2021, we've done about 200 passengers," Huntus said. "If we continue to fly empty airplanes, airlines go bankrupt."
WestJet pulled its flights from the airport last week but said they will return by June.
There has been no word on when Air Canada will resume service to the southeastern Alberta city.
Huntus said it is easier to come back from suspended flights, than from commercial air bankruptcies.
"People understand why it's happening," he said. "But I think there is a great deal of pent-up demand and when things do turn around, I'm looking forward to a pretty significant increase in activity."
Airport remains active
The airport will remain open and active. Huntus said it plays a big role in the community, even during the quiet days of the pandemic.
"There's other activity. There's still private pilots and recreational aviation, corporate aircraft, charters, businessmen and women flying in from across Canada to conduct business," he said.
Medicine Hat is a medevac hub for southern Alberta.
The airport is also used by the Super T Aviation flight school, which is accepting new students, owner Terri Super said.
While it may be a tough time to think about getting into aviation, Super said she predicts charter flights becoming more popular.
"I think we will see more expansion of charter over the next little while, people can get on a charter aircraft and be in their own cohort."
With files from Helen Pike and Natalie Valleau