HALIFAX -- With Air Canada and WestJet cutting flight service at the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport, the airport is unable to provide Cape Breton travellers with a way off the island – for the first time in 70 years. However, one charter company has its sights – and flights – set on the struggling facility.

Celtic Air Services president Dave Morgan recently purchased a charter service from Quebec and has plans to fill the void left by the major airlines that pulled services earlier in 2021.

"Our whole goal has been to find the opportunities and grow our business, and we've done that since 2017," says Morgan. "We think that there's a great opportunity down there in Sydney with Air Canada and WestJet leaving them high and dry. Folks are still travelling and still have to get around. If you're a professional working out of Sydney, as well as out of Saint John, that's a long drive in between."

Morgan's twin-engine pressurized airplane seats seven, but he plans on providing passengers extra comfort and space by operating with five seats. He says service will be available across the Maritimes, Quebec and part of the eastern United States.

The prospect of a charter airline is well received by airport staff across the region.

"If it can be done safely and travellers take precautions when they get into the different airports, then I think it's a welcomed addition to any airport," says Saint John Airport commercial development director Jacques Fournier.

Fournier notes airports across the Maritimes are still waiting for financial assistance from the government – bracing for a year that could be worse than 2020.

"There hasn't been much of a bailout from the federal government for airlines or airports," says Fournier. "So, we are hoping we will get some funds soon to help the industry survive."

Morgan says Celtic Air Services is hoping for a business liftoff in the near future.

"The airline industry is predicting a recovery over 4 to 7 years," says Morgan. "We are thinking there was always a market on the east coast for a small charter carrier. So, we're pretty excited about the potential."

Meanwhile, Celtic Air Services is expected to create 10-12 jobs in Cape Breton, and the company is already planning to purchase a larger plane.