Deer Lake Airport secures new twice-weekly flight to Ontario
Flair Airlines will begin service to Kitchener-Waterloo in June
It's a first for Deer Lake Airport, and one of the first in Newfoundland and Labrador.
An "ultra-low cost" airline service will have a twice-weekly, regular route from the community on Newfoundland's west coast to Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., late next spring.
The deal with Flair Airlines was announced at the unveiling of the airport's new brand Friday.
"I think it will be primarily family and relatives, but also tourists so people that may want to come to Newfoundland and Labrador but for whatever reason, the cost is prohibitive," said airport president and CEO Tammy Priddle.
"The flights will be one way, starting price at around $49.… It really opens up a whole opportunity."
That opportunity may come in increased traffic or other airlines taking notice, she said. And even though Priddle expects air travel numbers won't return to 2019 levels for another three to four years, she sees the Flair announcement as an important step in getting past the aviation lull of the pandemic.
"It will spark the interest of other airlines and any time that you're seeing growth — and this is growth — people are going to want to look to see what is going on in Deer Lake, and we're very fortunate to be located where we are," she said.
Flair Airlines has been building its fleet and route network for more than a year. Eric Tanner, Flair's director of network planning and scheduling, says it's the fastest-growing airline in the country and is expected to have 20 aircraft by the end of next year, up from the 12 the company currently owns.
Flair has been eyeing a service to Newfoundland and Labrador for some time now, he said.
"The prices for air travel here are very, very high, and so the opportunity came out where we have some aircraft delivery coming next summer and so Deer Lake started to appear as a very great opportunity," Tanner said.
Worldwide, the airline industry has been rattled by the pandemic. The new service is expected to be used by expats living in the area, as well as travellers in western Newfoundland and the Kitchener-Waterloo area.
The government of Newfoundland and Labrador has been working with the Deer Lake Airport on this project. Premier Andrew Furey, who was on hand for Friday's announcement, says other jurisdictions are looking to incentivize air travel and look at strategies to breathe new life into the aviation industry. He says the province is working on its own strategy, and tourism plays a big part of that.
"Perhaps more than any other industry in the world, the aviation industry was rocked — the tourism sector's been rocked," he said. "But we're seeing with the rates of vaccines across the country, particularly in this province, we can reopen and we need to reimagine how we do that. It won't look the same as it did before the pandemic happened, probably, but we need to think strategically about how to move on."
The first Flair Airlines flight is scheduled for June 8.