The airline industry in Newfoundland and Labrador took a hit earlier this week when Air Canada pulled service from 30 of its domestic routes.
Of those 30, six of them were regular service routes between various airports in the province — St. John’s, Deer Lake, Gander, Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Wabush.
The cutbacks also saw the Canadian airline giant close its station at the airport in Wabush.
The airline has cited repercussions from the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason behind the cutbacks.
Now, a Gander-based company believes it might be able to take on some of the load left behind.
While EVAS may not be able to fill the void left by Air Canada’s departure from those routes, it may have an opportunity to expand its operations slightly.
“It has opened up the opportunity to look at all of the routes within the Atlantic region and decide what, if any, of those routes we would like to do,” said EVAS Air president and CEO Patrick White. “Of course, being a Newfoundland-based company, we’re going to look first here at we can do in Newfoundland and Labrador and what we can do and operate from our main base in Gander and see what the possibility is of providing service into areas like St. John’s, Deer Lake, Goose Bay and Wabush.”
EVAS Air was one of the airlines affected by the sudden shutdown of those routes. For the last 16 years, it had been in a commercial purchase agreement with Air Canada.
Through that agreement, Air Canada had contracted EVAS to look after the service of the routes in Newfoundland and Labrador. Those routes are now defunct.
“We will still watch to see what COVID does and what the provincial government does in terms of opening up prior to us deciding which routes we would support,” said White. “It is unfortunate that it happened.
The airline will still handle Air Canada’s cargo flights to the province.
On Thursday, PAL Airlines reenforced its commitment to providing its airline services to Atlantic Canada
"PAL Airlines knows firsthand the uncertainty COVID-19 has created in Canadian commercial aviation," said Calvin Ash, President of PAL Airlines in a press release. "Given recent events, we believe it is important to restate our commitment to serving our network in Atlantic Canada and Quebec and to assure our passengers that they can continue to book future travel with confidence in our airline."
The branch of Unifor that represents workers for EVAS Air and Jazz Aviation expressed its displeasure with the decision in a press release.
“Airline workers should not have to continue to bear the burden of this global pandemic's economic effects due to ongoing travel restrictions," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. "What workers need is for the federal government to take immediate action to develop an effective airlines strategy that preserves Canadian jobs."
In an emailed statement to SaltWire Network, a spokesperson with the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation said the provincial government was disappointed by Air Canada’s decision to suspend its service to the seven provincial routes.
“While this is a business decision by the airline, it will affect leisure and business travellers, and impact those who travel for health-related matters,” the statement read. “This is a national issue impacting regional hubs in eight provinces across the country. We will not know the full impact of this announcement by Air Canada until air travel fully resumes across the country.
“In addition, we have met with and will continue to press all major airlines emphasizing the importance of air access and of resuming domestic and international routes to Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Nicholas Mercer is a local journalism initiative reporter for central Newfoundland for SaltWire Network.