WestJet decision disappointing, but not surprising, says Charlottetown airport CEO

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King is calling on the federal government to act urgently to support air access to the Island after Westjet announced Wednesday it would be suspending flights to Charlottetown as of Nov. 2.

Move will put 8 Charlottetown employees on temporary layoff

WestJet is suspending all flights in and out of Charlottetown as of Nov. 2 (Brian Higgins/CBC)

The CEO of the Charlottetown Airport Authority says he's disappointed, but not surprised, that WestJet decided to suspend flights in and out of P.E.I. by Nov. 2.

Due to travel restrictions from COVID-19, WestJet had already reduced the number of flights to about two per week, and even those planes were not full, said Doug Newson.

"The demand is simply not there for them to carry passengers at this moment," he said.

What the WestJet cuts mean for the Charlottetown Airport

3 years ago
Duration 5:23
he airport wasn't expecting a heavy flight schedule this winter, says CEO Doug Newson

"It's very disappointing and discouraging for everyone at the airport but not totally surprising."

The airport is left with one airline, Air Canada, offering service to P.E.I. — about 10 flights a week in total to P.E.I. from Montreal and Toronto.

However, Newson said those flights will be reduced to about one a day by Nov. 1. 

Charlottetown Airport Authority CEO Doug Newson says the demand is 'simply not there' for WestJet. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Both Newson and P.E.I. Premier Dennis King are calling on the federal government to extend help to the air-travel sector.

King said for months he has raised concerns to the federal government about tourism and travel and was told support would be provided for the sectors.

'Limited air access'

"It was less than a year ago that WestJet announced expansion of service to P.E.I. We were excited about the prospects for growth and greater connection to the rest of Canada," King said in a news release.

"Today, Islanders are faced with limited air access, which has a direct impact on families and businesses."

King said he will raise his concerns again on Thursday during talks with Dominic LeBlanc, the federal minister for intergovernmental affairs.

Air Canada continues to provide service to and from Charlottetown from Montreal and Toronto, but those flights will be reduced on Nov. 1. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

WestJet said it intends to be back in Atlantic Canada some day. It is offering travel credits to ticket holders for flights after Nov. 2, but not cash refunds.

The Charlottetown airport is now looking at ways to keep its costs low this winter, perhaps taking some parking lots and tarmac areas temporarily out of service. In a year where they expected to make money, they will instead lose millions of dollars, Newson said.

Newson said the cancellation of flights will have an impact on jobs at the airport.

The move will put eight Charlottetown employees on temporary layoff along with 21 employees in Fredericton, Moncton, N.B., and Sydney, N.S.

"We just need to wait this out and hopefully conditions will improve sometime in the new year to allow us to regain some of these services."

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With files from Brian Higgins