New Brunswick

Saint John chosen as Flair Airlines' only N.B. destination, with flights to start in May

Edmonton-based discount airline plans to bring low-fare air travel to eight Canadian destinations by summer, including Saint John.

Discount airline announces eight new routes, with flights to Saint John set to begin May 1

Discount carrier Flair Airlines announced plans to expand routes to eight destinations, including Saint John, starting in May. (Submitted by Flair Airlines)

Saint John Airport has been chosen as the only New Brunswick destination in discount carrier Flair Airlines' expansion plans. 

Announced Wednesday, the Edmonton-based airline's plan is to bring low-fare air travel to eight Canadian destinations by summer.

Service to four of those destinations, including Saint John, will begin in May, with more added in the coming months as non-essential travel within Canada restarts, Flair said.

"Flair anticipates tourism and travel to begin restarting in the spring and summer," Flair CEO and president Stephen Jones said in a news release.

In an email, Flair communications spokesperson Jamina Kotak said Saint John was chosen because of the airlines' focus on "efficiencies and finding a better way to do air travel."

"Many of our passengers are travelling point-to-point, so they are not looking for connections," Kotak said. "In these cases, alternate airports often provide a better value."

Derrick Stanford is resigning as CEO of the Saint John Airport after almost five years in the position. (Submitted by Derrick Stanford)

'Good news' after months of hardship for airport

In an interview Wednesday, Saint John Airport CEO Derrick Stanford noted the May start date is contingent on the restart of non-essential travel, including the lifting of travel restrictions on who can enter the province and the vaccine rollout.

But it is welcome news after months of dire headlines about air travel, he said.

"It's very exciting news, and it's really good to talk about something positive for a change in our industry," Stanford said. "So we're excited that this is happening, and we're hopeful we'll be able to pull out all the stops for May."

Saint John Airport has been hard-hit by airlines' pandemic cutbacks.

There have been no commercial flights into and out of the airport since Jan. 11, when Air Canada indefinitely suspended all flights out of Saint John — and all Toronto flights out of the Fredericton International Airport — amid the pandemic's second wave.

Rapid testing at airports would be a welcome 'next step'

The flights announced Wednesday would be from Toronto to Saint John on Tuesdays and Saturdays, for about $80 one way. 

Two flights a week won't be enough to turn things around for YSJ, Stanford said, "but it's certainly a step in the right direction."

Air Canada and Flair Airlines have both scheduled June 1 as a flight restart date at Saint John Airport. (Julia Wright / CBC file photo)

Rapid testing would be a further step, he said.

"Right now there is only one active airport in New Brunswick with commercial traffic and there's no [rapid] testing there yet," Stanford said.

"I'd like to see rapid testing available in airports, and I think that would be a key part" of turning things around for New Brunswick airports.

Other Atlantic airports have urged broader use of rapid testing as well, arguing that rapid testing would cut down on mandatory 14-day self-isolation periods because results are ready in about 15 minutes. 

The federal government distributed 3.8 million of the tests to provincial health authorities late last year — about 200,000 of which were sent to New Brunswick.

The province's chief medical officer of health has said they are being used "very judiciously," because there are differences in how sensitively they pick up COVID-19.

In the case of travellers who are asymptomatic, Dr. Jennifer Russell has said, "the gold standard really is the PCR test that's done in the lab."

The destinations and start dates included in Flair's expansion plan are:  

  • Saint John, May 1
  • Halifax, May 1
  • Ottawa, May 1
  • Waterloo Region, ON., May 1
  • Charlottetown, June 4
  • Thunder Bay, ON.,June 
  • Victoria, B.C., July
  • Abbotsford, B.C., August

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marie Sutherland is a web writer with CBC News based in Saint John. You can reach her at marie.sutherland@cbc.ca.

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