Air Canada cuts 2 late-night flights to St. John's, but says business lounge proves commitment

Air Canada says bigger planes have given it more capacity for earlier flights.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Maple Leaf Lounge was held Tuesday at St. John's International Airport. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Air Canada is eliminating two late-night flights that arrive at St. John's International Airport, although the carrier says it will be able to serve customers better with larger aircraft during more popular runs. 

Red-eyed passengers who have been accustomed to arriving in St. John's from Toronto and Halifax in the wee hours — the last Toronto flight has been getting in at 3 a.m. — will now be asked to book on earlier flights. 

But Isabelle Arthur, manager of media relations with Air Canada, said passengers are already being boarded on flights with greater capacity at more convenient times. 

"With our fleet modernization program we now operate up to 5 flights a day between St. John's and Toronto, either with Embraer E90s or Airbus A320s," Arthur said in an email to CBC News. 

Noting that the number of available seats has increased by 8.6 per cent since September, Arthur said Air Canada's schedule "has been optimized" so that the last flight lands earlier. 

A buffet and bar in the new Maple Leaf Lounge will cater to business class passengers and members of Air Canada's loyalty program. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

"We continuously adjust our schedule according to demand," she added. 

According to the timetable posted the airline will be operating a larger aircraft at an earlier time.

Air Canada will also no longer be operating a 1 a.m. arriving flight from Halifax, according to the airport.

New lounge cited as proof of dedication 

Air Canada, though, is emphasizing that it has a strong connection in St. John's, and pointed to the construction of its new Maple Leaf Lounge — a secure area available to business class passengers and travellers who use its loyalty program — as proof of its dedication. 

"Investing into a lounge is a significant capital expenditure and the fact that we have done that shows our commitment to St. Johns, it shows our commitment to Newfoundland," said Mats Winter, director of product design for Air Canada.

The lounge is double the size of the one it is replacing. There will be more 46 additional seats. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

St. John's Mayor Danny Breen said he is not concerned about the cancelled flights because of the late arrival times.

"I am sure it would be great if there was another flight out of there late that you could get, but what you do is adjust your schedule the best you can," Breen said.

"I think what is really key to look at overall is that there is an increase in the capacity in the number of seats that are coming from Toronto to St. John's."

The lounge opens to the public Wednesday morning. Replacing a smaller lounge in the older area of the airport, it includes a kitchen, reception area and private bathrooms.

A Montreal designer worked on the Maple Leaf Lounge, which incorporates local art. (Meg Roberts/CBC)