‘More than disappointing’: Air Canada to stop direct flights to Calgary from Regina, Saskatoon

‘More than disappointing’: Air Canada to stop direct flights to Calgary from Regina, Saskatoon

Saskatchewan residents looking to fly directly to Alberta’s largest city will soon have one less airline to do so.

CBC News has confirmed that Air Canada will cancel direct flights from Saskatoon and Regina airports to Calgary in mid-January.

“It’s a little disappointing for the airport and the community,” said CJ Dushinski, Saskatoon Airport Authority vice president of business development and service quality.

“It certainly limits the options available to travelers who want to get to Calgary or travel beyond the connection.”

Dushinski and Justin Reves, manager of customer experience and marketing at the Regina Airport, told CBC News that Air Canada notified the airports that direct service to Calgary will end on January 16.

Saskatoon’s airport authority expects the airline to add additional seats to other hubs, such as Toronto and Vancouver, and WestJet will add seats or service to Calgary, Dushinski said.

The Regina airport has contacted other airlines, including WestJet, about potential service, Reves said.

“Calgary is a huge market for the city of Regina,” he said.

“Lots of people, friends, family, business connections [are] there, and it will be especially disappointing for Air Canada customers who are used to being able to fly that route.”

Air Canada used to offer just one daily direct flight from Regina to Calgary, he added, compared to West Jet, which now operates several daily flights.

Air Canada says it is focused on rebuilding its main hubs in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal

People departing from Saskatoon and Regina will continue to see flights from Toronto and Vancouver, an Air Canada spokesperson told CBC News.

Saskatchewan residents will still be able to fly to Calgary, but only from other destinations, such as Vancouver.

Public health guidelines aimed at curbing the potential spread of COVID-19 affected all travel. Airports and airlines hemorrhaged cash due to lower passenger traffic.

Air Canada has made changes to several routes to and from Calgary as it rebuilds from the impact of the pandemic, which means analyzing the network and deploying resources where it would be most productive, the spokeswoman said.

The airline has decided to rebuild its main hubs: Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, they said.

The announcement is a smart business move, said Karl Moore, an associate professor in the faculty of management at McGill University in Montreal. He has previously consulted for Air Canada, among other companies.

Air Canada is looking at load levels — how many people fill certain flights and how much they pay — to see which flights are unprofitable or which routes or hubs could be more profitable, Moore explained.

“They spend a lot of time thinking about it and that’s what good businesses do,” Moore said, noting that WestJet made a similar move by cutting service on the East Coast.

In an open letter to Air Canada, Economic Development Regina also expressed concern and disappointment with the airline’s move to cancel direct flights from Saskatchewan to Calgary.

The suspension of those routes triples the travel time between the Saskatchewan capital and Calgary, said Chris Lane, president and CEO of Economic Development Regina.

His organization is urging Air Canada to reconsider its decision and commit to expanding service to Regina as it considers the city’s role in supplying the world with “sustainable food and fertilizer,” Lane said.

“As one of the fastest growing economic and population areas in Canada, the need for connectivity and the opportunity it provides to airlines is as necessary as it is beneficial,” he said in the letter.

“[Regina’s] the population will grow by almost 10% in the next five years. Calgary’s numbers are similar and so are Saskatoon’s. That Canada’s flag carrier would choose to cut direct connectivity between these regions at this time is disappointing; it’s poorly thought out.”

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