WestJet to fill early-morning gap in Fredericton with 6 a.m. flight to Toronto

WestJet  is taking on a 6 a.m. flight from Fredericton to Toronto after an outcry from local businesses over Air Canada's decision to drop its early morning flight. 

Starting this summer, WestJet will adjust its schedule to offer two direct flights from New Brunswick's capital to Toronto, at 6 a.m. and 4:10 p.m.

Fredericton's business community was relieved by the announcement.  

"This is something that our members really feel they need to be able to do business," said Krista Ross, the CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce.  

The chamber has almost 1,000 businesses as members, and many of them require travel.

Earlier this month, Air Canada announced it would be cutting its early flight to Toronto. Starting June 1, direct flights, on larger planes, will leave for Toronto at 11:50 a.m. and 6 p.m.

"We promote the idea that if you live in Fredericton you can work anywhere," Ross said. "You can base your business here, but in order to do that we need to have great connections and be able to get in and out in a way that allows people to have their work day."

Changing schedule of 2 flights

WestJet's afternoon flight will be implemented on June 24 and the early morning flight on June 25.

"With the updated timing, we believe guests will be able to maximize connectivity into Toronto and will benefit from improved access to WestJet's comprehensive network, including preferred sun destination departure times," Morgan Bell, a spokesperson for WestJet, said in a statement.

The new flights will replace the current flights, which leave at 12:40 p.m. and 7:20 p.m.

Ross said the early Air Canada flight, which leaves Fredericton between 5:10 and 5:45 a.m., allows business travellers to get to Toronto by 7:30 a.m., put in a full work day and return home in the evening.

Fredericton International Airport Authority

"They literally have one day out of the office to do their business in Toronto," she said.   

Without the early flight, Ross said, business travellers would have to fly to Toronto the night before or fly out of Moncton or Saint John.

"People have become accustomed to that early morning flight and it is really convenient," she said. 

Air Canada adds bigger planes 

Isabelle Arthur, a spokesperson for Air Canada, said changes to schedules were commercially based, and early morning flights to Toronto are still available through Montreal.

"We review all our routes on a regular basis and take into consideration many factors when considering scheduling changes, including demand between city-pairs, aircraft availability and overall profitability," Arthur said in an emailed statement to CBC News.

With its new schedule, which starts June 1, Air Canada will use the Airbus 319,  which has eight "preferred" seats, and 116 economy seats, according to the Air Canada Rouge website.

Ross said said business travellers have been asking for larger planes and access to business class. The current planes, Q400s, are much smaller, seating 76 people and lacking a business class.

Joe MacDonald CBC news

"Because those [new] planes hold twice as many passengers, they simply were not able to keep all four flights," Ross said.

WestJet Encore's Q400 has 78 seats, 10 of which are premium fare seating.

Johanne Gallant, the president and CEO of the Fredericton International Airport, was also pleased by WestJet's announcement. 

She has received a positive response from the business community about the two WestJet flights.

"If there was no 6 a.m. flight it would mean it would take longer to get to Ontario, to Toronto, so it does affect the market," she said.