Nfld. & Labrador

Big blow for Stephenville Airport after PAL Airlines gives notice of departure

The Stephenville Airport will lose its last remaining year-round commercial air service in January with the announcement Wednesday that PAL Airlines is leaving.

Airline says Stephenville service no longer viable, with last flight on Jan. 16

The pilots of PAL Airlines say the airline is making changes without consulting their newly-assigned union, in violation of the Canada Labour Code. (PAL Airlines)

The Stephenville Airport, already struggling to survive, will lose its last remaining year-round commercial air service in January, after PAL Airlines announced Wednesday it is leaving. 

Airline officials were in the town on Newfoundland's west coast Wednesday morning to meet with representatives of the airport authority, the chamber of commerce and Mayor Tom Rose.

The message?

The service to Stephenville is no longer viable, and PAL Airlines had given its mandatory 120-day notice to the Canadian Transportation Agency that it was pulling out.

That means the final regularly scheduled flight will take place Jan. 16.

Less than 150 passengers this year

Steve Dinn, vice-president of business development with PAL, said business has declined dramatically over the past decade, and practically dried up in more recent years.

Fewer than 150 passengers had boarded PAL flights at Stephenville so far this year, he said.

"Our experience is telling us that most travellers (from the southwest coast) are using Deer Lake (Airport) as the preferred hub," Dinn said.

Dinn said PAL could have pulled out years ago because the business case for Stephenville had long since evaporated, but he said the company "stubbornly" held on, trying to turn things around.

The company was losing money by continuing to fly into Stephenville, he said.

Dinn said PAL is growing throughout Atlantic Canada, including at Deer Lake. The exception was Stephenville, he said.

"It was not an easy decision," he said.

Government has to wake up and realize the economic and tourism impact of both interprovincial and intraprovincial air travel.- Tony Wakeham

This latest blow will leave Stephenville without any year-round intraprovincial air services, and the news came as a shock Wednesday to Stephenville-Port au Port MHA Tony Wakeham.

"Stephenville Airport is a significant employer and access point for other destinations," said Wakeham.

"PAL is currently the anchor tenant at Stephenville Airport, although its scheduled service has continued to erode over the years."

Wakeham criticized the governing Liberals for being "totally absent" with respect to any air access strategy.

"Government has to wake up and realize the economic and tourism impact of both interprovincial and intraprovincial air travel," said Wakeham, adding he is "deeply concerned about the very viability of the airport."

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About the Author

Terry Roberts is a journalist with CBC's bureau in St. John's.

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