New Brunswick

Former Air Canada executive says province should consider closing an airport

The announcement of Air Canada suspending multiple routes in New Brunswick and closing its Bathurst station left some people looking for answers about why these changes were made but the former chief operating officer of Air Canada thinks this presents an opportunity. 

The former Air Canada COO says the province can look at this situation as a challenge or an opportunity

On June 30 Air Canada announced it was suspending 30 domestic routes, including six in New Brunswick. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The announcement by Air Canada to suspend multiple routes in New Brunswick and closing its Bathurst station left some people looking for an explanation,  but the former chief operating officer of Air Canada thinks this presents an opportunity. 

Duncan Dee said the province needs to look at what it really needs out of air travel and how we can make the most out of it in the future.

Dee said, even if you combined the three New Brunswick airports, the province would barely make the United States list of the top 200 air travel markets. He estimates that each airport serves about 150,000 people. 

"Those in the New Brunswick context may well be large or somewhat reasonable sized markets. But when you take a look at it from a Canadian perspective or a world perspective, those are extremely tiny markets," he told Information Morning Fredericton.

He said the most obvious choice would be to look at why we have an airport in Saint John and in Fredericton when they are only an hour apart from each other. 

Duncan Dee is the former chief operating officer of Air Canada and was a member of the 2016 Canada Transportation Act review panel. (Submitted by Duncan Dee)

"From my perspective, given the significant reduction in traffic, it may well serve that part of the province, at least as a start, to consider consolidating Fredericton airport."

He thinks the air travel that New Brunswick has preserved during the pandemic is remarkable. He said Fredericton losing its Halifax and Ottawa routes isn't actually a big problem. 

"Fredericton is still linked to two of the largest hubs in the country and can within one stop get to pretty much most of the world."

He said New Brunswick can look at what's going on as a challenge or as an opportunity. New Brunswick being the only Maritime province with a land border to the United States makes it unique and Dee said that's a good thing. 

"Why should it not take advantage of its geographical position to find a way to improve its own transportation linkages?" 

He said now isn't the time to downsize transportation expectations but to maximize the opportunities that can be created.

"These discussions tend to be more productive if they're started organically at the local level with open eyes and an honest assessment as to where we're at as a province, and where the transportation system finds itself in the current context." 

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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