Canada’s airlines have been among those taking a big financial hit because of COVID-19. Service cuts as a result of pandemic travel restrictions has led to some airports having no commercial traffic at all but that’s about to change.
Flair Airlines, an Alberta-based ultra-low-cost carrier, has announced plans to add eight new routes this spring including three in Atlantic Canada — Saint John, N.B., Halifax, N.S., and Charlottetown, P.E.I.
The airline is betting an economic recovery and its own design will allow it to withstand lower revenues better than others.
“We do see that recovery is on the horizon,” said Sarah Riches, vice-president of customer service for Flair.
“We have a lot of faith in the Canadian government as the vaccinations roll out and as restrictions continue to ease. We are also really sensitive to the fact that essential travel does need to continue to happen.”
Saint John is one of those airports that currently has no commercial traffic.
“We were very happy that Flair … made sure to include Saint John as they made their plans for the summer of ’21 so I think that alone is a good testament to the viability of our market,” said Derrick Stanford, president and CEO of the Saint John airport.
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Business groups are also pleased.
“As many people are aware 2020 was devastating for tourism … the Chambers across Atlantic Canada had been advocating for support because we can’t afford to be cut off from the rest of Canada,” said Atlantic Chamber of Commerce CEO Sheri Somerville. “We need to have access.”
While that access may be coming again, a lot of other variables come into play on whether business or pleasure travelers will be there to greet the new services when they arrive.
Sommerville noted that even after travel restrictions lift and the health crisis eases, consumer confidence with travel could take time to bounce back. “Do people want to be going to other places — other places in Canada or other places in the world?” Somerville asked.
In Saint John, there is optimism that when the planes arrive, so will the people.
“Saint John, we’re pretty gritty,” added Stanford. “We always think we can outpace the industry so we’re confident that we’ll see our passengers back in the near future when they’re able to fly”
Flair’s targeted date for touch-down in Atlantic Canada is May 1.
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