Saskatchewan's two main airports are joining six others across Canada in welcoming back international flights at the end of the month.
Starting Nov. 30, Regina International and Saskatoon John G. Diefenbaker International will be easing the restrictions on out-of-country arrivals, Transportation Canada announced in a news release Tuesday morning.
Other Canadian airports on the list include:
St. John's International.
John C. Munro Hamilton International.
Region of Waterloo International.
More airports are expected to be considered, based on demand, operational capacity and the COVID-19 situation across the country, Transportation Canada said.
There are 10 Canadian airports currently accepting international flights — mostly in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.
"Increased vaccination levels have allowed us to safely reopen these additional Canadian airports to international passenger flights," federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in Tuesday's news release.
The changes will help ensure travellers have better access for winter travel, while continuing the federal government's "measured approach to reopening our border," Alghabra said in the statement.
'A renewed social licence to travel'
The return of international flights, paired with the easing of non-essential travel restrictions both provincially and nationally, is welcome news for the struggling Regina Airport Authority.
"I think it's given people a renewed social licence to travel," said James Bogusz, the authority's president and CEO.
Earlier during the pandemic, the airport had to lay off more than 35 per cent of its staff, he said. In the last few months, it's been able to rehire about half of them. The return of international flights makes it easier to bring back more, Bogusz said.
"When you can't enable a function that people depend on, which is to bring goods and people from the U.S., for example, or another international destination where it's completely blocked, you kind of feel almost powerless."
Up until May, the airport was still seeing less than 10 per cent of its pre-pandemic passenger volumes, Bogusz said. Over the summer, those numbers began to rise, and he's hoping the latest changes keep them on an upward trend.
To entice people back to travelling, the airport has also announced that Sunwing Airlines will run direct flights from Regina to six destinations in Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, starting in December.