Charlottetown Airport concerned more flights could be cut

·2 min read

WestJet is gone and Air Canada is talking about further service cuts across the country, and that has Charlottetown Airport CEO Doug Newson worried.

"Once you lose this air service in small communities, it's very difficult to get it back," Newson told Island Morning's Laura Chapin.

"If we wait six months, we could see more reductions in service."

The airline industry has been among the hardest hit in the pandemic. Air Canada is talking about closing stations in nine airports, but Newson said Charlottetown is not one of those.

The biggest issue for Charlottetown Airport is the Atlantic bubble, Newson said, which requires returning travellers to self-isolate for two weeks after any trip outside the region. He recognizes that requirement is a central part of what is keeping Atlantic Canada relatively safe during the pandemic, and trusts the Chief Public Health Office to evaluate when it is safe to change that requirement.

But he is also encouraging the CPHO to continue looking at other options, such as the pilot project involving rapid testing at Calgary Airport.

P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said she doesn't see a COVID-19 test replacing the need for self-isolation requirements for entering P.E.I. any time soon.

Morrison said the current tests are just not reliable enough.

"We know that one initial negative test doesn't mean that you won't become positive," she said. "So it would not change, at this point in time, any isolation requirements."

Sun destinations

Charlottetown Airport is also facing the loss of Sunwing flights to resort destinations this winter.

Charlottetown is not currently on Sunwing's schedule for this winter. It would normally start flying out of Charlottetown in February.

Brian Higgins/CBC
Brian Higgins/CBC

Newson said Sunwing has told him that its schedules beyond February are still in development, but he added he would be surprised to see Sunwing flying out of Charlottetown under the current conditions.

"With the 14-day quarantine requirements when you do travel, even domestically, is it really realistic for us to see flights to the south out of this part of the country this winter?" he said.

"From my discussions with Sunwing earlier this week, bookings have really come to a halt even in the bigger markets due to the second wave we're going through right now. People are really apprehensive to book vacation travel."

While some Islanders, such as retirees and those working from home, may be in a position to self-isolate after a southern holiday, Newson does not believe that market would be large enough for Sunwing.

While he looks forward to welcoming back Sunwing flights, Newson said his current priority is maintaining and increasing domestic flight options.

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