Reductions expected to have a ‘catastrophic’ impact on Atlantic airports

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HALIFAX – Cuts to Atlantic Canada’s airline industry are expected to have devastating effects on region’s airports as fewer travelers fly east, and interprovincial workers could suffer most of the cuts this holiday season.
Effective January 11, Air Canada is suspending all flights to Sydney, Nova Scotia, and Saint John, New Brunswick, until further notice.

Airport CEO Mike Mackinnon said Air Canada’s decision would be a blow to Cape Breton’s JA Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport. Atlantic airports are already struggling to make ends meet, and this decision has only exacerbated the problem.

“Massive, disaster. These are the words. The airport really only earns revenue from commercial passenger traffic, ”Mackinnon told CTV News.

Air Canada also announced, effective January 11, that it will suspend four routes to Charlottetown, Fredericton, Deer Lake, NL. and Halifax until further notice.

The announcement comes less than two months after WestJet also suspended 80% of its trips to Atlantic Canada. An earlier announcement in June by Air Canada indefinitely suspended 11 routes in Atlantic Canada, as well as the closure of stations in Bathurst, NB and Wabush, NL

Airline cutbacks leave rotational workers in Atlantic Canada in a precarious position as they rely on interprovincial flight services. With fewer flights, it might be more difficult for these workers to get home for the holidays.

Josh Rambeau is a rotary worker who works in British Columbia but lives in Cape Breton. What was once a flight close to home is now a flight to Halifax, then a long drive to Cape Breton.

The extra commute time means he’ll be wasting time with his family this Christmas.

“What used to be, say, 12 days at home has now become 10 or 9,” ​​Rambeau said.

“The time we have at home is very precious. So taking this time definitely has an impact on my wife and kids. ”

In the fall, Air Canada had already cut flight service between Sydney and Halifax, leaving the only flights from Cape Breton to Toronto. The airline will continue to operate five days a week between the two cities until January 11.

Derrick Stafford, president of the Atlantic Canada Airports Association and CEO of Saint John Airport, called the situation “a worst-case scenario 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,” Stafford said in a statement. hurry.

Travelers from outside the Atlantic provinces must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in hopes of preventing the spread of the virus. These rules also apply to travelers moving within the Atlantic bubble after the withdrawal of several provinces from the arrangement.

Over the summer, residents of the east coast were encouraged to travel with their bubble, resulting in increased tourism to some places in the bubble.

“We were actually on track to have our best year ever in 2020,” Stafford said.

Despite the increase in local tourism, it was not enough to support the air service.

In a statement, Air Canada said it continued to “experience a significant reduction in traffic due to COVID-19, ongoing travel restrictions and quarantine rules, low seasonal demand and the end of the trips ”, which led to the decision to suspend certain services for Atlantic Canada.

A new poll by the Angus Reid Institute suggests that 10% of people plan to travel outside of their community or province, despite health restrictions.

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