Cape Breton Post
Good news in the air
Today marks first commercial flight out of Sydney airport since January
SYDNEY — Nova Scotia's reopening phases that continue a trek toward a normal life once again have extended to the tarmac in Sydney.
An Air Canada flight was scheduled to arrive at the J.A. Douglas Mccurdy Sydney Airport from Toronto at 12:11 a.m. today and then depart for Toronto at 5:30 a.m.
This will mark the first commercial flights at the regional airport since flights were shut down on Jan. 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sydney Airport Authority CEO Mike Mackinnon said Air Canada was planning to restart the Toronto service in early June, but the provincial lockdown pushed the restart date to this weekend.
“We were obviously excited when we thought the flights would start earlier but understood the delay and are happy to have Air Canada back this weekend,” he said.
In July, the Toronto flights will depart from Sydney three days a week on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
At this point Mackinnon said he is excited, nervous and cautiously optimistic that this is the first step along the road back for the airport.
“It has been a very challenging 16 months for everyone here and we really needed some good news for a change,” he added.
Air Canada spokesperson Pascale Déry said they are pleased to be resuming service between Toronto and Sydney, which will include daily flights in August.
In a statement to the Cape Breton Post, she said with Canada's ongoing vaccine rollout accelerating, combined with various provincial governments' reopening plans, Air Canada has taken a leadership position to support their partners in Canada's tourism and hospitality sectors.
Déry said the support includes service to 50 cities across the country, enabling Canadians to conveniently explore this summer.
Air Canada also announced a new refund policy to give travellers additional peace of mind. It provides customers an option for a refund to the original form of payment in instances where Air Canada cancels their flight or reschedules the departure time by more than three hours, regardless of the reason.
Westjet flights between Halifax and Sydney resume on Monday with Westjet Encore arriving in Sydney at 8:21 p.m. and departing Tuesday at 11 a.m. for Halifax.
The Westjet flights will operate from Sydney to Halifax on July 1, 4, 6 and become a daily flight starting July 9, except for July 12 when there is no flight.
Morgan Bell, spokesperson for Westjet, said they are looking forward to resuming flights from the Sydney airport.
“We’re just super excited and so happy to get service back into the Sydney airport and across Nova Scotia just to start to reconnect and restore the network to what we were operating before COVID-19,” she said.
Bell said they know it has been a long wait and are appreciative of the support of the community and airport as travel restrictions begin to ease.
Describing these flights as a starting point, she said they are optimistic they will have the ability to add more flights.
“That’s our hope but we need guests to add those flights as in order to operate the aircraft, we need guests in the seats to make that happen.”
ROAD TO RECOVERY
As well as Air Canada and Westjet on the Sydney airport tarmac this summer, PAL Airlines will launch its Halifax flights on July 30.
Mackinnon said there remains a long road ahead to rebuild the airport's business model.
The flight schedules coming back now are only a fraction of what they were prepandemic and that will mean extremely limited revenues for the airport until they can get traffic levels back, which could take years.
“We continue to seek funding support from government,” Mackinnon said. “It has been promised for some time but has not been delivered yet, so we are hoping for some news on that front soon.”
He said if there was ever a time to support your local airport, now is the time.
“The airlines are planning to grow their networks back and we need local support for flying to/from the J.A. Douglas Mccurdy Sydney Airport to ensure we remain part of those networks,” said Mackinnon.
As people get their second vaccine, he hopes it will boost their confidence to travel once again. Airport officials have heard from many people wanting to travel but have been waiting for more clarity around the travel rules including vaccination status, documentation, testing and isolation periods.
Mackinnon said the decision regarding testing at the Sydney airport is currently being reviewed by the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
“If Nova Scotia Health requires testing at our airport, we will support that,” he added.