WestJet service cancellations another blow to already hard-hit Atlantic Canada Airports
No financial light at the end of the tunnel.
For immediate release
(HALIFAX) Tuesday, October 14th, 2020 – The elimination of WestJet service to Fredericton, Moncton, Sydney and Charlottetown and reduced service to Halifax and St. John’s announced on October 14 that takes effect November 2, has left Atlantic Canada’s airport network reeling.
“WestJet’s cutbacks eliminate almost 80 percent of the airline’s seat capacity in Atlantic Canada,” says Derrick Stanford, president of the Atlantic Canada Airports Association and president of Saint John Airport.
“It’s a hopeless situation to be in, but we understand WestJet’s decision and can’t say that we are surprised. Demand has been severely hampered by 14-day quarantine restrictions and our region has the lowest travel volumes in the country right now.”President of the Atlantic Canada Airports Association, Derrick Stanford,
WestJet’s announcement follows on the heels of an earlier announcement in June by Air Canada that the airline was indefinitely suspending 11 routes in Atlantic Canada and closing stations in Bathurst, NB and Wabush, NL.
Airports across the country have been left scrambling from the pandemic, facing massive losses in revenue from reduced passenger traffic and airline flight schedules.
According to Monette Pasher, Executive Director of the Atlantic Canada Airports Association, support is required for the sector.
“The airlines specifically cite restrictive government travel policies as a key reason for low passenger travel demand and their decisions to reduce service. We have been expressing the urgency of the need for government to provide support for our industry, frankly it’s been seven months and time is now running out. Rebuilding air service in our market will be very challenging, as this is another significant blow to Atlantic Canada communities.”Executive Director of the Atlantic Canada Airports Association, Monette Pasher
Stanford says that the industry doesn’t expect a recovery to pre COVID-19 levels for four to five years at a minimum, and that the financial prospects are untenable. “There’s no pot of gold at the end of any rainbow. Our airport businesses have been decimated and our financial sustainability is in serious question. Airports are critical to economic vitality and our provinces need timely, dependable and convenient flight connections. But we’re at the cliff’s edge and we’re holding on by our fingernails.”
Pasher says that the industry has been strongly advocating for a coordinated federal government approach to air industry supports, and although there are signs that support is coming, to this point it’s been a waiting game. “Airports are an essential service. But without some quick government action, the damage already done may well be irreparable.”