Rotational workers dealt 'another huge blow' as Air Canada flights slashed

·3 min read

Rotational workers in Newfoundland and Labrador are grappling with yet another burden, after Air Canada announced Tuesday it's closing major transit corridors in and out of the province later this month.

"It's another huge blow," said Michael Dean, who works in Alberta but resides in Newfoundland.

As of Jan. 23, Air Canada will no longer fly out of Gander and Goose Bay, with both those airports losing runs to and from Halifax. The carrier has also cut its Toronto to St. John's route.

Dean said the loss of those flights means most people living outside the metro area must drive to the capital and likely stay in a hotel overnight.

"It's just money, money, money adding up, and extra days away from your family," he said.

Quarantine rules for inbound travelers have meant thousands of rotational workers across the province must hole up on their return for at least seven days, taking precious time away from their families. For some, the restrictions have meant not coming home at all.

Dean regularly travels through Toronto on connecting flights, and doesn't yet know what the latest changes will mean for his own rotations.

But he doesn't doubt the news has flabbergasted workers like him, already worn down and fed up with tight quarantine restrictions.

"It's closing in on one year now, and it doesn't seem like much light at the end of the tunnel for workers," he said.

"[It's] very hard, very hard. Mentally draining."

Katie Breen/CBC
Katie Breen/CBC

Travel woes could lead to 'mass exodus': PC MHA

Grand Falls-Windsor–Buchans MHA Chris Tibbs, the PC Party's tourism critic, sympathizes with the workers' plight. He also worries the added hardship could mean workers, and their tax dollars, leave Newfoundland and Labrador soil for good.

"The revenue they take into the province is very important," Tibbs said Wednesday.

"If they see that they can't afford to make these flights, or it's too much of a hassle for them, they're basically going to pick up their family when the time comes and move out west.

"If they don't see the government working for them to keep them here ... we're going to have a mass exodus like we had before."

Tibbs echoed Dean's concerns: long drives to St. John's, multiple transfers, added costs.

"You're going to be taking an extra two or three extra flights ... maybe even through different airlines. It becomes extremely cumbersome for them," he said.

"It's going to deter them from staying here."

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

Tibbs doesn't lay blame with Air Canada itself.

"Air Canada is a business," he said. "Unless they get the support they need from the federal government, in partnership with our provincial government ... they're going do what they have to do, what's best for them."

Premier Andrew Furey addressed the dropped service earlier this week, saying he'd been reassured by federal ministers that Newfoundland and Labrador would not lose the routes permanently.

When asked whether his government would play a role in negotiating with the airline, Furey refrained from making promises.

"Air travel does often fall under federal jurisdiction," Furey said Wednesday, noting his confidence in Ottawa to "protect those routes as we emerge from the pandemic."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador