HALIFAX -- Air Canada has announced plans to suspend flights at multiple airports in Atlantic Canada in the new year. 

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. 

This announcement comes less than two months after WestJet suspended 80 per cent of its Atlantic Canada capacity.

An earlier announcement in June by Air Canada indefinitely suspended 11 routes in Atlantic Canada, along with closing stations in Bathurst, N.B. and Wabush, N.L.

“Service has been whittled down to an unsustainable level for our airports,” said Derrick Stanford, president of the Atlantic Canada Airports Association and CEO of Saint John Airport, in a news release, noting this is the third significant round of cuts to air service in the last six months. 

“Our industry cannot survive and operate in these conditions, and we are seeing the worst-case scenario playing out here today. This will have a huge impact on our region’s economy, on the ability of families to reconnect, on the movement of essential workers, and on airport employees and businesses.”


This wave of airline cuts are generating reaction in Sydney, where flights to Toronto and Halifax from the J.A. McCurdy Airport are scheduled to be paused.

“This is a massive blow, absolutely catastrophic to Cape Breton Island,” said Mike MacKinnon, CEO of the Sydney airport, in a news release on Tuesday.

The airport also says the local Jazz aviation station will also be closed until further notice. 

“Our airport has been repeatedly slashed by air service cuts ever since the pandemic began and now this announcement, on top of the recent WestJet route suspensions, is effectively the final nail in the coffin for air service to/from our community for the foreseeable future.”

Before COVID-19, the J.A. McCurdy Airport handled flights from both Air Canada and WestJet, flying to Halifax, Toronto, and sometimes Montreal.

The news from Air Canada comes roughly a month after WestJet halted routes to four cities in Atlantic Canada, including Sydney.

Airport officials say they provided a service vital to Cape Breton families, businesses, rotational workers, Cape Breton University, and tourism, and now the airport has “lost all air connectivity,” essentially leaving the island without air service.

MacKinnon says the aviation industry had been pleading for help from the federal government, and needed more than what was given.

“Airports are nothing without passengers and airlines,” said MacKinnon. “Our airline partners need to see more meaningful sector specific support to get through the crisis.”

MacKinnon adds he is “holding on to a glimmer of hope” that the airport will be up and running again after winter.

Meanwhile, the airport authorities in Sydney and Halifax are calling for additional testing measures.

"Testing at the airport could be a way for our industry to safely restart and to restore consumer confidence in air travel again," said Tiffany Chase, a spokesperson for the Halifax airport.