Air Canada advises more air service cuts and station closures in Atlantic Canada

The Covid Chronicle

**** Atlantic Canada Airports Association Release

Air Canada advises more air service cuts and station closures in Atlantic Canada

Atlantic Canada’s airports were advised today of more service cuts and station closures by Air Canada that will become effective January 11th, 2021.

The second wave of COVID-19 infections is piling added pressure on a sector on the verge of collapse. Station closures are the worst-case scenario for some of our region’s smaller airports, and the result will further fracture the viability of people who need to efficiently move in and out of these communities. The cumulative impact of air carrier service reductions is bigger than a blow to our region; we could be looking at the end of some of our small regional airports if solutions are not found.

Air Canada advised today that effective January 11, 2021, it will be suspending all flights until further notice in Sydney and Saint John and suspending four routes until further notice in Deer Lake, Charlottetown, Fredericton and Halifax.

The announcement comes on the heels of WestJet’s October announcement suspending 80 percent of the airline’s Atlantic Canada capacity, and an earlier announcement in June by Air Canada indefinitely suspending 11 routes in Atlantic Canada along with the closure of stations in Bathurst, NB and Wabush, NL.

“This is the third major round of cuts to air service for our region in the last six months,” says Derrick Stanford, president of the Atlantic Canada Airports Association and CEO of Saint John Airport. “Service has been whittled down to an unsustainable level for our airports. Our industry cannot survive and operate in these conditions, and we are seeing the worst-case scenario playing out here today. This will have a huge impact on our region’s economy, on the ability of families to reconnect, on the movement of essential workers, and on airport employees and businesses.”
“We are down to bare bones for air service, which makes each of these cuts more devastating because they cut at the heart of communities, and they cut our region off from the rest of the country.” noted Monette Pasher, Executive Director of Canada Airports Association. “We are going to have a long hard road ahead of us to rebuild air access for our region. Repercussions of these cuts will be felt for years to come in many Atlantic Canada cities, towns and rural communities.”

According to Pasher, the industry has been calling for federal support for the nations airlines for months now. “The Air Sector was mentioned in the Fall Economic Statement released on November 30th, and although our region and small airports are grateful for the financial support and look forward to hearing how it will help keep our communities connected. Unfortunately though, there was not enough support for medium size or large airports and no news for air carriers other than the wage subsidy support. Half of the employees in our industry are out of work, and as a hardest hit sector, more support is required urgently for airports and airlines in order to get through this pandemic.”

It is nine months into this crisis and Canada is the only G7 country that has not provided sectoral support to airlines. Canada needs healthy air carriers; they are essential to our economy.

Pasher noted ““When the airline industry contracts, smaller communities are hit hardest and we are seeing that again today. The biggest reason for today’s cuts is a combination of the domestic travel restrictions unique to our region and rising COVID cases across the country, which understandably, impacts demand. Industry experts say it could take up to a year until the majority of the population is vaccinated, this sector cannot wait that long to begin recovery. Our provinces need to implement testing to better understand the level of COVID-19 in our communities and help rebuild consumer confidence in this sector, which is why we have been calling for testing pilot programs at our region’s airports.”

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