After a year and a half of low numbers of travellers, officials at Halifax Stanfield International Airport finally got some much needed good news on Monday.
The federal government announced it plans to let fully vaccinated tourists visit Canada again soon. As of Aug. 9, fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents living in that country will be able to visit Canada without having to quarantine for two weeks.
Halifax was one of five airports added to the list of Canadian airports that will once again allow international flights carrying passengers to land. Airports in Quebec City, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Edmonton were also on the list. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, international flights had only been landing in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.
"It's been almost 16 months since we've had international or U.S. flights at our airport, so this is really welcome news and we're looking forward to having these travellers back at our airport," said Leah Batstone, a spokesperson for the Halifax International Airport Authority.
The federal government also plans to open Canada's borders to fully vaccinated travellers from all other countries on Sept. 7. That would be another huge boost to traffic volume at the airport in Halifax.
Batstone said during the pandemic, passenger activity at the airport was about 10 per cent of what it was before the pandemic, and it is currently at about 15 per cent.
"For tourism and for the economy in general, it's great news," she said. "We expect that this is the first step in our recovery — which will still take several years — but this is sort of the beginning of it."
Return to full service will take time
Passengers who expect to immediately be able to access the same level of service that existed before the pandemic, such as non-stop flights to a wide variety of destinations, may have to be patient.
"It's not like you can just turn on a switch and everything comes right back," Batstone said. "It does take some time, especially for the airlines to sell tickets, to determine which aircraft are going to fly where, and make sure that there's demand for it."
Batstone said she expects flights to resume to and from the U.S. and Caribbean destinations this fall and winter, and additional routes in 2022, but that it could be several years before non-stop flights to other destinations such as Europe return.
The COVID-19 pandemic abruptly stalled air travel activity beginning in March 2020, resulting in the largest financial loss ever recorded by the Halifax International Airport Authority.
Pre-pandemic, Halifax Stanfield was home to 120 organizations supporting 5,600 jobs on-site, such as ground handlers, firefighters, accountants, hotel employees and aircrew.
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