Flight cuts cause uncertainty for Maritime families who depend on travel
SYDNEY, N.S. -- At a time of year when many Maritimers typically spend time with family, Air Canada’s recent cut of flight routes across the region may make it more difficult for families to connect.
Effective Jan. 11, Air Canada is suspending all flights in Sydney, N.S., and Saint John, N.B., until further notice.
The airline also announced, effective Jan. 11, it is suspending four routes in Charlottetown, Fredericton, Deer Lake, N.L., and Halifax until further notice.
News that there will soon be no flights in or out of the J.A. McCurdy Airport in Sydney hits hard for the hundreds of rotational workers who fly back and forth between Cape Breton and jobs across the country.
“What was say, 12 days at home, has turned into nine or 10,” says Josh Rambeau.
Rambeau is a rotational worker in British Columbia. He works two weeks on and two weeks off.
His wife, two daughters and stepson are back home in Cape Breton. What used to be a quick and easy 20-minute drive to catch a plane in Sydney will now require more than four hours on the road each way to fly out of Halifax.
“The time we do have at home is very precious, so to take that time away certainly has an impact on my wife and kids,” says Rambeau.
Rambeau adds that having to travel from Halifax in winter often means dealing with winter conditions, which could mean the cost of another night in a hotel, or the risk that comes with hours of travel on slippery roads.
Jim Deleskie’s job in the tech industry sees him fly dozens of times a year, all over the world.
“For me, absolutely terrifying, with my desire to be able to stay here,” says Jim Deleskie.
He says, if flights don’t return to Sydney, he and his family might be forced to move away from Cape Breton to somewhere more connected.
“We’ve got a house here, we’ve got a business here, my son’s going to university here now. So it represents a major change,” says Deleskie.
Even if his family stays, Deleskie says the lack of air traffic could result in his son switching universities.
“If we see a drop in international students coming in, there will be even fewer courses offered at the university here. So that means he’ll have to go somewhere else to end up finishing his education,” says Deleskie.
Even before Air Canada pulls out of the Sydney and Saint John airports indefinitely on Jan. 11, Josh Rambeau says his family will be feeling the effects over the holidays.
Rambeau is planning on coming home for Christmas, but won’t be arriving in Sydney until Christmas Eve due to the lack of flight options during the pandemic.
Both Rambeau and Deleskie are among many Maritimers hoping that flights will return to their home airport after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
If they don’t, Cape Breton Island might lose another young family.
“Moving, it’s an option,” says Rambeau. “It’s one I don’t want to do, but you never know, I might have to, or we might have to.”
In the end, it may be hard to measure just how many people are impacted by an industry decimated by the pandemic, and its ripple effects that are hitting hard close to home.