Air Travel Picks Up But Regulations Continue To Act As Barriers – Hali…

At its peak in 2019, Halifax Stanfield International Airport was welcoming hundreds of flights a day from 46 destinations. When the pandemic hit in 2020, air travel was largely halted — Halifax’s airport was reduced to a domestic airport and at its lowest, it was servicing five or fewer flights a day from just four destinations.

Slowly, things are improving.

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“We did see an uptick in July,” said Jocye Carter, chief executive of the Halifax International Airport Authority.

“But in August, September and October, we definitely saw increased numbers. The month of August was the equivalent of January by the end of July.”

Right now, there are about 60 flights going by the airport each day and there are now 15 destinations, including a single international flight, after the airport was approved to begin again international service in September.

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“A lot of it’s based on need,” Carter said.

“A lot of folks thought once you regained international service, then all the flights would just start flying that day.”

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That’s not the case, and so far, just one airline is travelling internationally from Halifax to just one location — a Condor flight to Frankfurt.

“We have a lot of Germans who own character in Nova Scotia and many of them have not been here for two years,” Carter said.

The Frankfurt route is seasonal and from September to November flies twice a week. When that stops, though, it won’t be the end to international flights. Several airlines are already selling seats to sunny destinations starting in December.

Among those is WestJet, but vice president Andy Gibbons said bookings have room to grow.

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“The need ecosystem continues to be uncertain,” Gibbons said.

“We continue to have some barriers to growth that we’re looking to the federal government to address.”

Those barriers include the need for travellers returning to Canada to show a recent PCR test and a federal policy requiring children under 12 to isolate for two weeks upon return — meaning they can’t return to school or daycare right after a vacation.

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“We’re hoping and recommending that those policies evolve,” said Gibbons, who also points out that air travel is becoming safer.

“By the end of the month, we will be a fully vaccinated industry. Everyone who boards a flight will be fully vaccinated. Everyone who enters an airport will be fully vaccinated,” he said.

Gibbons said in the meantime, the airline is also continuing to work on improving domestic service.

The airline noted that this year, Halifax was the weakest link in the network and that’s why there hasn’t been more service in the vicinity. need was lower than in other places in the country, something Carter said is not surprising, given the province’s strict two-week quarantine requirements.

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“We truly didn’t open up without quarantine to the rest of Canada until the first of July, so if you’re booking your summer holidays by the first, you’ve pretty well made your plans for the summer,” she said.

Gibbons said WestJet remains committed to the vicinity and it is actively working to bring back its service in the vicinity with the goal of getting as close to 2019 levels as it can next summer.

And while there is hope that its European destinations will also return, Gibbons said those will take longer to get back to what the company had in 2019.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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