'Very disappointing' news for city and tourism, as WestJet cancels direct St. John's-Dublin flight

The direct route to Europe won't be coming back for summer 2019.

People who have already booked will be rerouted through Halifax, airline says

Westjet has cancelled the direct flight from St. John's to Dublin, Ireland, for 2019. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

There will be one less direct flight to Europe from St. John's in the summer of 2019.

WestJet announced Thursday that its direct service from St. John's to Dublin is ending. 

"We understand this is disappointing news for the community and Newfoundland and Labrador overall and we are sorry we are unable to continue this flying in 2019," a spokesperson said in an email to CBC News.

"This decision was not taken lightly."

The St. John 's International Airport Authority said the launch in 2013 was the "most successful launch of a new route in WestJet's history."

"We are very disappointed with this decision, but with continue to work with WestJet to grow their services from our airport," a spokesperson said in the airport's release.

St. John's Mayor Danny Breen says the city will be in talks with the provincial government and the St. John's International Airport Authority about ways to keep international tourism coming to N.L. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

St. John's Mayor Danny Breen said when he learned of the cancellation Thursday morning, he was "very disappointed."

"We saw that as one of the essential links," Breen said, adding that he had heard the route wasn't doing as well as expected.

The route to Ireland has not been performing to the airline's expectations since its launch in 2013, the spokesperson said, and will therefore be discontinued.

The direct flight to Dublin, Ireland, won't be continuing in 2019. (Cathal McNaughton/Reuters)

"It's one of those things where we have to find a way, when aircraft carriers put these flights on, we have to find a way to ensure the ridership is there for them to continue," Breen said.

WestJet is in the process of contacting anyone who booked a flight on the St. John's-Dublin route to inform them of the itinerary change through the Halifax route.

The Halifax-Dublin direct service will continue in 2019, WestJet said.

Josh Jamieson's partner is from Ireland, so it's disappointing the route got cut rather than expanded, as they'd hoped 1:01

Halifax working 'very aggressively'

Cathy Duke, the chief executive officer of Destination St. John's, said it's definitely not good news that the flight is gone.

"Our campaign [theme] was 'closer than you think,' and people were just blown away by the fact that you could get to Canada in just four and a half hours," Duke said.

"We were getting there. I think we were making good progress, but from WestJet's point of view and looking at redeploying their planes and new routes, they felt that it would be better for them in Halifax."

Destination St. John's CEO Cathy Duke says the Dublin route must not have been doing as well as WestJet had hoped. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Duke said in recent years, the Halifax airport authority had been "working very aggressively" to become a flight hub for eastern Canada.

But, she said, hope is not lost, as the last remaining direct flight to Europe from St. John's is still running: Air Canada's direct connection to London's Heathrow.

"As far as we know, it's a successful flight," said Duke.

"There's always room for growth, larger planes or more frequent routes, so we're gonna make sure we are very good partners of their going forward."

Changing routes

In January, WestJet also cancelled a direct flight to London's Gatwick airport.

This year, the Calgary-based airline has announced a number of route changes, axing a twice-daily flight from Deer Lake to Halifax, for example.

But WestJet also added another direct flight from St. John's to Florida.

In October, soaring fuel costs, labour unrest and competition made a rough third quarter for WestJet Airlines Ltd., as profits plunged, compared to the same period a year ago.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador