Commercial flights returning to Maritime airports
SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- In about two weeks' time, the first commercial flight since January will touch down on the tarmac at the Saint John Airport.
The airport says that an Air Canada flight from Montreal is set to arrive on June 29, at 9:42pm, and then depart the next day for the Quebec city.
"To see the airlines come back, capacity come back, seeing aircrafts landing again, that's exciting," said Jacques Fournier, director of commercial development at the Saint John Airport.
"(The pandemic) has been devastating to the industry."
Five months ago, Air Canada cut service to Saint John, N.B., and Sydney, N.S., leaving both Maritime cities without any commercial flights.
But, with reopening plans and vaccinations continuing to ramp up, the air carrier has announced its restart dates for routes at airports across the country – including at the Saint John Airport and the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport, where service is set to return on June 26.
"Very encouraged to see them coming back to 10 of our region's airports. We think it's a great first step," said Monette Pasher, executive director of the Atlantic Canada Airports Association.
"Capacity for July in our region is still quite low, it will probably be between 25 and 35 per cent of what we would have depending on the province – but I think it's encouraging to see those signs we're starting to come back."
The Halifax Stanfield International Airport continues to see only about 10-percent of its usual traffic – but as restrictions continue to be relaxed – there is a sense of optimism when it comes to demand for air travel.
"We do think there will be a demand, and of course the airlines are seeing that demand" said spokesperson for the airport Leah Batstone.
"That's why they're putting these flights back into service so that's great to see."
Other air carriers outside of Air Canada are also set to soon begin service this summer – in Saint John, Flair Airlines, which describes itself as an "ultra low-cost carrier" will arrive in July and Pal Airlines will start its service in August.
"We've had time to get ready now, because the lack of flights coming in and out, it gave time to our staff and operations team to make sure everything is back to where it should be," says Fournier.
In Sydney, Air Canada flights will resume on June 26 – and WestJet will re-start daily service to Halifax effective on June 28. However, Pal Airlines has once again adjusted their launch date for their Sydney to Halifax service, which now will start on July 30.
"I think as we look towards August and there's more reopening, we're going to see more seat capacity come back in our market," says Pashar.
"I think this is going to take a long time to get back to where we were – but I think there are encouraging signs of that pent-up demand."