The restart date for flights out of Saint John Airport has been pushed back again ahead of New Brunswick's reopening-plan announcements, with flights out of YSJ now scheduled to resume on June 30.
The restart date, which was previously set at June 1, has always been a bit of a moving target because of the shifting COVID-19 landscape, acting CEO Greg Hierlihy said in an interview Tuesday.
"All the airlines, as are we, are looking for and monitoring the reopening plans," Hierlihy said. "New Brunswick and Atlantic provinces are announcing their reopening plans in the near future, so they're all going to watch to see what those look like."
But once they do get going, there will be quite the buffet of options to choose from.
"We have several airlines lined up to fly Saint John, so we're thrilled about that," Hierlihy said.
The latest restart dates for Saint John Airport flights are as follows:
Air Canada plans to restart flights to YSJ as of June 30
Flair Airlines, an ultra-low-cost carrier, plans to begin flights July 2
PAL Airlines has also joined the roster, with daily flights to Halifax five days a week to start on Aug. 2
Porter Airlines has delayed its network-wide restart to July 21
And by wintertime, when you're really ready for an escape, Sunwing Airlines plans to resume flights down south on Feb. 5
Reopening plans key to flights resuming
Could these dates change again?
It's possible, Hierlihy said, noting it all revolves around travel restrictions and the amount of demand airlines anticipate.
"If the restrictions aren't loosened on non-essential travel and 14-day [quarantines], the chances of them launching the service are quite low," he said.
"They have to see in these reopening plans what the path is to loosening those restrictions. That would be the key criteria."
Airlines have been buffeted by constantly changing pandemic developments, including the postponement of the planned April 19 reopening of the Atlantic bubble and variant outbreaks popping up in provinces across the country.
But a steadily widening vaccine rollout is starting to bite into those numbers, fuelling hope and reopening plans.
Higgs suggests reopening plans are imminent
At Tuesday's COVID-19 update, Premier Blaine Higgs said the province has made "incredible progress" in the vaccine rollout, noting he expects that 60 per cent of New Brunswickers will be vaccinated by the end of this week.
He also suggested preliminary discussions for a New Brunswick reopening are underway.
"The rollout plan that we will jointly put together and release will reflect us reaching those targeted levels of 75 per cent" of the population receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, he said.
"Hopefully over coming few days to a week we'll be able to outline a path, monitoring closely what we see right now ... how well we are able to contain [the outbreak] in the Fredericton area and understand exactly where the issues are arising."
Hierlihy said he'll be watching for any news of reopening plans closely.
"We're optimistic that once we get going there'll be demand, and we've got a variety of airlines that are going to fly out" of Saint John, Hierlihy said.
Once they do, what's the first getaway on his list?
"Probably Kelowna," he said. "I love it there. ... And probably for sure March break I'll be going somewhere south."