After months of cancelled flights and suspended service, there was a celebratory mood at the Fredericton International Airport on Monday when a new airline touched down for the first time.
PAL Airlines, based in Newfoundland and Labrador, will offer regular service between the capital city and Deer Lake and St. John's.
WestJet flights resumed on Saturday after the pandemic shuttered the airport. Air Canada brought back its Montreal flights on Monday, and Toronto flights are expected on July 1.
"I think it's a sign that we're opening up," said Fredericton Mayor Kate Rogers, who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the inaugural flight.
"I feel people will embrace this flight in particular because it's travelling within the Atlantic bubble."
Flights to St. John's and Deer Lake on the fleet of Dash-8s will serve Fredericton on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the Moncton airport on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.
The routes were previously offered by Air Canada, but the airline suspended them, blaming an 80 per cent reduction in passengers because of the pandemic.
PAL sales manager Stephen Short said "introductory fares" on the new flights are between $69 and $199. The airline plans to add flights between Fredericton and Halifax and Ottawa on July 30.
The flights will allow more families across the Maritimes to stay connected now that the province is reopening, Rogers said.
"It means a lot because it means that we're opening up,posted and we're getting ready to travel and step outside our local bubbles again," she said.
A lot of the flights currently being booked from Fredericton are people heading to Toronto, Deer Lake, and St. John's, said Johanne Gallant, the CEO of the airport.
"I think there's some hesitancy, but there's also pent-up demand," Gallant said. "We're seeing some flights that are booking up very quickly. There's people who haven't seen their family in over a year, and a lot of people haven't taken their vacations."
PAL Airlines added the flights to Fredericton amid their expansion to 12 airports across the Atlantic region and Quebec, including Halifax, Charlottetown, Gaspé. It also has a flight to Ottawa.
Short said the expansion by PAL into Fredericton is possible because, unlike other airlines, the company was able to continue many of its flights throughout the pandemic.
"We weathered the pandemic a little bit differently," he said.
"We offer charter operations as well as essential cargo services, so we were moving essential nurses and crews throughout the pandemic."