Air Canada picking favourites with its N.B. service, Saint John chamber says

Saint John Airport has spent millions on airfield improvements to address fog-related issues. (Graham Thompson/CBC - image credit)
Saint John Airport has spent millions on airfield improvements to address fog-related issues. (Graham Thompson/CBC - image credit)

Saint John is getting "the short end of the stick" when Air Canada makes decisions about flights into New Brunswick, says David Duplisea, CEO of the Saint John Region Chamber of Canada.

Saint John flights are being cut to only two per day, while Fredericton's has six daily flights and Moncton five, Duplisea said.

"Air Canada should not be picking winners [and] losers in New Brunswick with regards to local economies and airports," he wrote in a letter this week to Air Canada president Michael Rousseau. "It is unfair to our region and our province."

In an interview with CBC News, Duplisea suggested that making more significant cuts in service to Saint John than to the other cities is like picking favourites.

Air Canada says the cuts in service aren't permanent.

Cites potential harm

Duplisea  noted that service reduction comes after the Saint John Airport spent almost $25 million modernizing its airfield to better manage fog-related issues.

Meanwhile, Air Canada has made changes that hurt the city' corporate and personal travellers as well as the airport's financial stability.

He said since the early morning flight from Saint John to Toronto has been cut, some business professionals have had to look to other options. Some travellers have been forced to fly out of Moncton or Halifax and some are going to the U.S. to catch flights there.

And this could hurt Air Canada as well, Duplissea said.

"What we're also hearing now is that many of our corporate travellers are looking at Bangor and Portland as options to travel to get to those connecting points, and that will hit Air Canada's bottom line," he said.

In his letter to Air Canada, Duplisea asked what data drove the decision to cut so much of the service in and out of Saint John.

He said hopes his letter results in a face-to-face meeting or video call with Air Canada management.

Air Canada has yet to respond to the letter but did provide a written statement to CBC News.

Cuts just temporary, airline says

The statement said Canada's growth at the Saint John Airport contributed to the region's economy over the years and capacity and schedule adjustments reflect current market conditions.

It said the current capacity reduction is temporary since market demand has yet to reach pre-COVID levels.

"We are still providing one flight per day to each of our main hub airports of Montreal and Toronto which provide connections to our domestic, transborder and international network for residents and the business community," read the statement.

"No other airline offers this access and capacity at the Saint John Airport, a clear sign of our continued commitment to this market. Our current plan is to increase our frequency to Toronto to twice a day in November.