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Air Canada Suspends 30 Regional Routes, Closes Eight Stations
With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging around the world and travel demand consequently depressed, airlines are being faced with adapting their networks to make business sustainable in the medium term.
Over the past few days Air Canada had to make the difficult decision to suspend indefinitely 30 domestic routes in its networks and consequently closing down eight regional stations in Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and New Brunswick. All services cut connect smaller communities in Canada, some of which will remain without air connections altogether. Here is the list of the suspended routes:
Deer Lake-Goose Bay
Deer Lake-St. John’s
Goose Bay-St. John’s
Quebec and Ontario
Baie Comeau-Mont Joli
Gaspé-Iles de la Madeleine
The cities that will be completely abandoned by Air Canada will be Bathurst, New Brunswick; Walbush, Newfoundland and Labrador; Gaspé, Baie Comeau, Mont Joli and Val d’Or in Quebec; Kingston and North Bay in Ontario.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his disappointment with Air Canada’s decision: “We are obviously disappointed by the decision by Air Canada to cut services to some regions. We know Air Canada profits from the most profitable routes in the country but we expect them to serve … people who live in more distant regions,” Reuters reported on Friday. “We hope they can gradually resume these services … as the economy starts to recover”.
Unlike many countries around the world, Canada does not have a system to financially support Essential Air Service. or those routes that would not be commercially viable but that represent a vital lifeline for remote communities. Therefore, airlines base their decisions on which markets to serve exclusively on a commercial basis.
Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu stated last month that the company is currently losing 22 million Canadian dollars per day [approximately 16.2 million U.S. dollars] and during the Annual General Meeting blasted the Government for imposing very restrictive conditions to Canadian citizens allowing them very limited freedom of movement.
At the end of June, four provinces in Atlantic Canada (New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador) have established a “bubble” isolating themselves from the rest of Canada and the world to maintain their low number of cases, although it appears that plans are being made for a gradual reopening to tourism from the other provinces.
Air Canada’s announcement was received with great disappointment by the local communities impacted by the closures. Mr. Al McDonald, the mayor of North Bay, Ontario, declared to Radio-Canada that it is a “devastating loss” for the local airport, whose 300 employees are now facing an uncertain future. “We ask that the Federal Government and Air Canada work together to save the airline industry and we request not to be left behind,” said Mr. McDonald.
The airport of Bathurst, New Brunswick, has lost its triple daily service to Montreal and is now left without any air link. This is another blow dealt to the economy of the region after the closure of a local foundry and a mine for the extraction of heavy precious metals. “We feel more and more isolated,” Mr. Paolo Fongemie, mayor of Bathurst commented to Radio-Canada.
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