As Provincial Airlines’ first flight from Ottawa to St. John’s touched down on the runway on Friday, officials at St. John’s International Airport said it was finally starting to feel things were returning to normal.
“It’s a step in the right direction, for sure,” said Peter Avery, executive director of the airport. “It’s a new route. It looks and looks like an airport again. “The flight from St. John’s to Ottawa will run six times per week and will stop at Deer Lake before heading to the mainland. This is one of 12 new routes announced by Provincial Airlines in June to help fill gaps left by Air Canada and WestJet due to the drop in travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seventy-six passengers disembarked from the inaugural flight shortly after 1:30 p.m. Friday, marking a big day for Janine Brown, PAL’s director of business development and sales.
“It’s a really exciting day for PAL Airlines, our very first flight from Ottawa to St. John’s,” said Browne. “A lot of really excited people reconnecting with their families here on business land in St. John’s today. So it’s a big day, we’re really excited. “
Browne said the new flight, along with other recently added local routes to Moncton and Fredericton, are intended to help better connect eastern Canada as travel begins to resume to pre-pandemic levels.
“It really catapults those flights, and we’re expanding further now to provide an additional connection,” she said.
“At the end of the pandemic, now is the right time. Travel is coming back, there is a lot of excitement right now around air travel, reconnecting for friends and family… We are thrilled to be a part of this solution. “
The enthusiasm for travel is already being felt at St. John’s International Airport, according to Avery, who said passenger volume began to rebound even earlier this year.
“For the first half of the year, we’re still down 88% from 2019 numbers. But judging from what we’re seeing right now, our traffic since opening up to the rest of Canada is about two, two. and half of what it was in June, ”he said.
“It’s going in the right direction, [but] it’s still going to be a process of several years, I think, to get back to where we were. “
Avery said the airport would continue to need to borrow money for “the next little while” depending on how long the economic recovery lasts. The airport has laid off 18% of its staff due to the pandemic.
As for PAL Airlines, Browne said she hopes the new flight from St. John’s to Ottawa won’t be the only addition.
“It sounds a little cheesy, but the sky is the limit,” she said. “If there’s an opportunity out there… and PAL Airlines is the right regional carrier to be able to fill it, then we’re going to do it. “
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