WestJet to suspend direct flights from Halifax to Montreal, Ottawa and St. John's

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WestJet is suspending several routes out of Halifax, starting with Montreal on Oct. 28. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)
WestJet is suspending several routes out of Halifax, starting with Montreal on Oct. 28. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Nova Scotians looking to fly directly to Montreal, Ottawa and St. Johns won't be using WestJet Airlines this winter due to route suspensions.

Flights between Halifax and Montreal will be suspended Oct. 28, while flights from Halifax to Ottawa and St. John's will be suspended in early January.

WestJet announced earlier this summer that flights between Halifax and Charlottetown, Fredericton and Sydney also would be suspended Nov. 15.

In June, the Calgary-based airline said it would concentrate the majority of its fleet in Western Canada.

John Weatherill, WestJet's chief commercial officer said in an email, the decision to suspend the services wasn't taken lightly.

"We understand that this is disappointing news and we apologize for any disruption this caused our guests and communities,"  Weatherill said.

"As a national airline we will continue to engage with these communities and stakeholders as we look to enhance service to Eastern and Atlantic Canada through direct connections to Western Canada, a leisure destination.

"By making these difficult decisions now, it will ensure we can offer more of what our guests expect from  WestJet and solidify our airline as the most reliable and affordable airline for many years to come."

WestJet didn't say whether the suspended routes will be re-introduced in the spring.

Non-stop WestJet services to Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto will continue to be offered out of Halifax Stanfield International Airport this winter. Flights to Orlando, Florida and Cancun, Mexico, will also be available.

WestJet's focus on Western Canada

Rick Erickson, a Calgary-based independent aviation industry analyst, says WestJet suspending these routes is part of the airline's decision to go back to its roots by focusing on Western Canada.

"It's the reality of a commercial decision made in Calgary," Erickson said. "You'll be seeing this throughout Atlantic Canada and I'm afraid to say that there's not a heck of a lot most of  Atlantic Canada is going to be able to do about it."

Erickson said that WestJet decided to redeploy the planes in Western Canada to compete with low-cost carriers popping up in the region such as Flair Airlines.

"They're going to be fighting tooth and nail with these low-cost carriers for market share," Erickson said.

"Those aircrafts have to come from somewhere and they've decided that Atlantic Canada is going to be the place."

Erickson noted that WestJet aircraft are also being redeployed from Quebec and Ontario.

Impact on Nova Scotian flyers

Air Canada, which is based in Montreal, has historically been the leading airline carrier in Atlantic Canada, but Erickson said Nova Scotian flyers will be impacted by the WestJet route suspensions.

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press
Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

"Instead of say four flights a day between the two carriers with regional aircrafts going to St. John's from Halifax there'll only be two or three," Erickson said.

Erickson says WestJet has vacated much of the Atlantic Canada market to Air Canada. He believes there will be plenty of services going from Halifax, but smaller destinations in Atlantic Canada such as Fredericton, Charlottetown and Sydney will likely suffer from WestJet's route suspensions.

"Connectivity is a lifeblood for economic development," Erickson said. " Everyone of those communities will be losing services and I'm sure the economic development authorities and individuals alike are going to be very disheartened by this prospect."

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