Travellers in Atlantic Canada are running out of even more flight options as Air Canada, on Tuesday (Dec. 8), confirmed that it will be suspending more flights in eastern provinces in the new year.
Effective Jan. 11, the airline will be suspending all flights in Sydney, N.S., and Saint John, N.B. until further notice.
Air Canada will also be temporarily suspending its Deer Lake- Halifax, Fredericton-Toronto, Charlottetown-Toronto and Halifax-Ottawa services.
In a statement issued to PAX, Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said the "decision was not taken lightly."
"We regret the impact on our customers and community partners, but it is increasingly difficult to continue to operate in this challenging environment, without specific financial support from government, with whom continue to wait for negotiations to start," said Fitzpatrick.
He said Air Canada is still carrying less than eight per cent of its normal passenger volumes due to "factors beyond our control and with no horizon for recovery."
"We continue to experience significantly reduced traffic due to COVID-19, ongoing travel restrictions and quarantine rules, low seasonal demand and the termination of the travel bubble," said Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick said the latest cuts represent "a small subset of the 95 previously planned suspensions disclosed at time of our third quarter results."
This latest move adds to an already-reduced network of regional routes after Air Canada, in June, indefinitely suspended service on 30 domestic regional routes and closed eight stations at regional airports in Canada.
Of those cuts, 11 routes were in Atlantic Canada. The reduction also included closing stations in Bathurst, N.B., and Wabush, NL.
"This is a massive blow"
Air Canada isn't the only Canadian airline to pull back from Atlantic Canada.
On Oct. 14, WestJet announced that it, too, would be temporarily halting service in the region, suspending operations to Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney and Charlottetown, while significantly reducing service to Halifax and St. John's.
WestJet's suspension eliminated more than 100 flights weekly or almost 80 percent of seat capacity from Canada's Atlantic region.
“This is a massive blow, absolutely catastrophic to Cape Breton Island,” said Mike MacKinnon, CEO of J.A. Douglas McCurdy Airport in Sydney, N.S. in a news release on Tuesday. “Our airport has been repeatedly slashed by air service cuts ever since the pandemic began...On top of the recent WestJet route suspensions, [this] is effectively the final nail in the coffin for air service to/from our community for the foreseeable future.”
Airlines have been cutting services for several months now as demand for air travel drops due to the coronavirus crisis.
Trudeau's Liberal government delivered its fall fiscal update on Nov. 30, announcing a new aid package for Canada’s struggling travel and tourism tourism sector, but did not reveal any sector-specific support for aviation.
The federal government is currently preparing a bailout package for airlines, according to reports.
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