Cancelled Air Canada flights 'a significant blow' to Atlantic region
Industry leader says weakened air connection makes communities 'less attractive'
The 14 Air Canada routes cancelled throughout Atlantic Canada Tuesday carried 400,000 passengers in 2019, and the loss is causing concern among the industry about travel between rural parts of the region.
Air Canada announced on Tuesday that it was indefinitely suspending 30 domestic flights — almost half of which are in the Atlantic provinces — citing weak demand because of travel restrictions and border closures relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Monette Pasher, the executive director of the Atlantic Canada Airports Association, said the region has many small communities far away from each other, meaning it will struggle to rebound from the effects of the pandemic.
"It really connects our region," said Pasher. "This is a significant blow."
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Pasher said the routes make up about five per cent of passenger traffic in Atlantic Canada, mostly connecting business travellers and mobile workers to smaller communities.
"We view it as the connective tissue of our economy," Pasher said.
"So when our air linkages weaken, our regions and our communities become less attractive places to live and work and do businesses."
In Halifax, inter-regional travel accounts for about 10 per cent of the total passenger traffic.
Tiffany Chase, spokesperson for Halifax Stanfield International Airport, said the majority of that happens between Halifax and Newfoundland and Labrador.
She said they were disappointed to hear four flights out of Halifax were cancelled indefinitely.
"Inter-regional air service complements the point-to-point destinations available at each individual airport, strengthening our regional transportation network," Chase said in an email.
Need for federal relief
Chase said the Halifax airport has had 97 per cent fewer passengers in April and May compared to last year and "June doesn't look much better."
Pasher said there is now an even greater need in the industry for relief from the federal government.
"We're more than three months into this pandemic and we haven't seen any meaningful relief for air transportation or our airports," she said.
"They're operating at five per cent capacity in terms of revenue, so it's a very challenging time. We'd like to see more done."
The routes being cancelled in Atlantic Canada are:
- Deer Lake-Goose Bay
- Deer Lake-St. John's
- Saint John-Halifax
- Gander-Goose Bay
- Gander-St. John's
- Wabush-Goose Bay
- Goose Bay-St. John's.
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