Suspension of WestJet services impacts Canadian airports

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Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet is indefinitely suspending operations from Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney and Charlottetown, while also reducing services to Halifax and St. John’s from the beginning of November.  A return to service date is unknown.

More than 100 weekly flights, the equivalent of almost 80% seat capacity from the Atlantic region will be eliminated as a result of the announcement.

“It has become unviable to serve these markets and these decisions were regrettably inevitable as demand is being obliterated by the Atlantic bubble and third-party fee increases,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO.

He added that since the beginning of the pandemic the airline has worked keep essential air service to all its domestic airports. “But we are out of runway and have been forced to suspend service in the region without sector-specific support.”

Up until this announcement WestJet was the only Canadian airline to maintain 100% of its pre-COVID domestic network. Since 2003 the airline has been credited with successfully bringing competition and lower fares to the Atlantic region, and subsequently driving tourism and business investments. The airline had announced permanent layoffs  to its workforce through its airport transformation and contact centre consolidation back in June. Further layoffs are expected at Fredericton, Moncton, Sydney and Charlottetown when services are suspended in November.

“We understand this is devastating news to the communities, our airport partners and the WestJetters who rely on our airline, but these suspensions were unavoidable without the prioritisation of rapid-testing or support for the introduction of a safe Canadian bubble,” added Sims. “We remain committed to the Atlantic region and it is our intent to resume operations as soon as it becomes economically viable to do so.”

Temperature screening on the rise in Canadian airports

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As part of the Candian Government’s plans to continue implementing a multi-layered framework of measures to protect against the spread of COVID-19, the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Marc Garneau, has announced the roll out of temperature screening for travellers at 11 additional Canadian airports.

The Government of Canada unveiled a multi-phased approach to temperature screenings for all passengers travelling to Canada and travellers departing some Canadian airports back in June 2020. As a result temperature screening stations have been in place since the end of July at the four largest airports in the country: Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Since the end of September, temperature screening is also now being conducted at additional regional hubs, including: St. John’s, Halifax, Quebec City, Ottawa, Toronto Billy Bishop, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Kelowna and Victoria. As well as passengers, all employees and personnel entering or working in the restricted areas of these airports are subject to temperature screening procedures by Canadian Air Transport Security Authority personnel.

The Honourable Garneau, commented: “As Minister of Transport, my highest priority is the safety and security of Canadians and the transportation system. Our government has expanded temperature screenings to major airports across the country to support these efforts and as another measure in our multi-layered approach to help protect the safety of the travelling public and air industry workers. The collective efforts of all Canadians have helped us during the pandemic, and will continue to do so as we move forward.”

Moose Jaw Municipal Airport to benefit from strategic investment

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Moose Jaw Municipal Airport in Saskatchewan, Canada, is set to benefit from strategic investments in infrastructure  thanks to government funding.

The Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, the honourable Lori Carr, Saskatchewan Minister of Government Relations; and His Worship Fraser Tolmie, Mayor of the City of Moose Jaw, announced funding for important improvements to the remote regional hub which will benefit the local economy and increase safety.

The rehabilitation and expansion of the existing runway and taxiway will help accommodate larger planes, including business class, turbo props and light jets. The construction of a new apron space will increase the parking area and allow for heavier aircraft to be parked. A new hangar access road will reduce the use of taxiways by vehicle traffic. Improvements also include the installation of additional runway, taxiway and approach lights.

The Government of Saskatchewan is contributing $999,900 in funding to the project, while the Government of Canada is investing $1.2 million in the airport project through its Rural and Northern Communities Infrastructure Scheme (RNIS).

“Canada’s experience under COVID-19 has demonstrated how interdependent Canadians are, as well as our need to stay connected. Connecting Canadians through regional transportation hubs, like the Moose Jaw Airport, brings jobs to rural communities in the region, and will support Canada’s economic recovery, ” said the Honourable Maryam Monsef.

“By investing in projects such as this, we are helping communities across Saskatchewan strengthen their economies and build more resilient infrastructure,” she continued.

Greg Simpson, chair of the Moose Jaw Municipal Airport Authority, added:

The Moose Jaw Municipal Airport Authority team is very excited to see this runway expansion and rehabilitation of the airside facilities project begin to come to fruition. When construction is finished, these upgrades will improve safety and benefit current airport users in the health and agricultural sectors, along with potential new business that rely on general aviation. This will improve access to critical health care services and help support economic development in our community, thanks to improved transportation infrastructure. We are grateful for both the confidence demonstrated, and the financial support provided.”

Canada unveils measures to support air access to remote communities

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The Canadian Government is working with other stakeholders including provincial and territorial governments, indigenous partners and the air industry to address the specific needs of remote communities that rely on small air carriers as the only year-round mode of transportation for essential goods, services and access in and out of the community. There are 140 communities with airports that were considered remote while designing this programme.

New measures include seeking bilateral agreements with provinces and territories to ensure continuity of service for at least six months and establishing a $75 million funding programme for the federal contribution for the six months and maintaining these essential services through an investment of up to $174 million over 18 months if needed.

Additional funding will depend on the needs of communities and the pace of recovery of air travel into remote communities. The funding will help ensure minimal levels of essential transportation services to remote communities, and ensure the continued supply of food, medical supplies, and other essential goods and services. Funding will be allocated to each jurisdiction with remote communities based on historic passenger volumes.

“While we continue to work together to limit the spread of COVID-19, we must also ensure remote communities continue to have the air connectivity they need for essential goods and services, travel and business. Our work with the provinces and territories on these measures will allow for reliable air services to keep remote communities connected to the rest of the country,” said the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport.

Meanwhile the Honourabel Marc Miller said: “Flights are an essential link for fly-in and remote First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities. This funding will go a long way in ensuring that fly-in communities have the essential services, goods and equipment they need to prevent and respond to any outbreak of COVID-19. Canada will keep working hard to ensure continuity of services.”

Pascan Aviation’s expanded network to benefit regional hubs in Canada

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A leading regional carrier in Quebec, Pascan Aviation is expanding its network. From 17 August, the airline will add Gaspé, Baie-Comeau, and Montreal-Trudeau to its existing network, which already includes daily scheduled flights covering eight airports (St. Hubert, Quebec, Bonaventure, Madeleine Islands, Bagotville, Mont-Joli, Sept-Iles and Fermont-Wabush).

Early morning flights from Fermont-Wabush connecting to Sept-Îles, Quebec and Montreal-Trudeau will also be added.

“Since its inception, Pascan’s mission is to connect the regions to city-centers, but also to connect the regions between themselves,” said Yani Gagnon, Pascan Aviation’s co-owner. “With the expansion of our regional services, we now offer never-equaled connectivity in Eastern Quebec, with connecting possibility for international and interprovincial flights in Montreal-Trudeau and Quebec airports. We want to reassure the population in the regions that we are poised to fill the void left by the withdrawal of Air Canada in the regional market,” he added.

Gagnon’s sentiments were echoed by his co-owner, Julian Roberts, who commented: “Our priority has always been to offer safe and reliable services while responding to the needs of the regions. There are currently a lot of discussions on issues relating to regional air transportation, and we have decided to take immediate actions to ensure a leading role in regional aviation.”

Just a few months ago, Pascan initiated an aircraft fleet changeover process. It can now serve the regional market with turboprop SAAB 340B aircraft, with 34-seat configuration and full on-board services. The carrier is also in the final stages of planning interlining agreements with national and international airlines.

Canadian regional hubs welcome return of services from Central Mountain Air

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Having resumed scheduled services to five British Columbian cities on 7 July, Central Mountain Air (CMA) is now restarting services between three additional Alberta and British Columbia destinations: Fort Nelson (YYE), High Level (YOJ)  and Edmonton (YEG).

“We are very pleased that CMA is working toward restoring scheduled air service to the community of High Level,” said High Level Mayor Crystal McAteer. “CMA has provided a valuable service to our community and been a valued corporate sponsor. The Town recognises the toll that COVID has taken on our businesses and our citizens. We are aware of the affect this virus has had on air carriers and greatly appreciate CMA’s effort to restore our access to this important mode of travel.”