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Coach Atlantic Maritime Bus projects $30 million in lost revenue because of COVID-19

Coach Atlantic Maritime Bus says the company projects a loss of $30 million in 2020 because of COVID-19. Despite the losses, the company continues to offer bus service three days a week, which includes spots in Cape Breton. PHOTO/COACH ATLANTIC MARITIME BUS
Coach Atlantic Maritime Bus says the company projects a loss of $30 million in 2020 because of COVID-19. Despite the losses, the company continues to offer bus service three days a week, which includes spots in Cape Breton. PHOTO/COACH ATLANTIC MARITIME BUS
SYDNEY, N.S. —

Mike Cassidy doesn’t have a problem summarizing the effects COVID-19 has had on his bus company over the past two months. 

“Being in the bus business is the wrong business to be in during COVID-19, I have to say,” said the 66-year-old Cassidy. “We’re not a hotel, we’re not a restaurant that still has hope that there might be something to generate some revenue this year.” 

Cassidy is the owner of Coach Atlantic Maritime Bus, which serves more than 40 communities across the Maritimes, including on Cape Breton Island. 

Prior to the virus, the Charlottetown native’s company offered bus service seven days a week, averaging 525 passengers a day. But, since mid-March, the business has seen a drastic decrease down to as low as 60 passengers per day at the virus’ peak. 

Along with the decrease in rider numbers, Cassidy continues to offer service to his customers but was forced to change the schedule. Currently, the company provides service to and from Cape Breton on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, instead of daily. 

“We’re an essential service, so my feeling was that I was going to continue to serve every community, but adjust the frequency to the industry demand,” said Cassidy. 

In the final two weeks of March, Cassidy told the Cape Breton Post the company lost 5,000 passengers. Overall, the company’s passenger numbers are down 90 per cent. 

To make matters worse, the pandemic has also affected the cruise ship and tourism industry overall, a sector Cassidy’s company uses to generate revenue during the busy summer and fall months. 

“We’ve now been told there’s no cruise ships for 2020,” said Cassidy, whose company has contracts with the port of Halifax and Charlottetown during cruise ship season. 

“All of that revenue is gone. The multi-day tour customers who use our service to travel the beautiful Maritime landscape, they’ve all cancelled, the revenue there is gone as well – there’s not even a glimmer of hope.” 

'Being in the bus business is the wrong business to be in during COVID-19, I have to say,' — Mike Cassidy, owner of Coach Atlantic Maritime Bus

Because of the situation, the company is projecting $30 million in lost revenue in 2020.

Despite the figures, Cassidy said he always has hope for the future, which is something he will continue to have during this bump in the road for the bus industry. 

“If I don’t have hope for the cruise ship business, if I don’t have hope for the multi-day tours, there’s still hope because every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I trace the weeks,” he said. “As things start to reopen, as restrictions are lifted, we’ll see more and more travel.” 

Although passenger travel is down, Cassidy said the company isn’t seeing big losses in terms of freight traveling to and from different locations on the bus. The company is only seeing a 30 per cent decrease in the category. 

Coach Atlantic Maritime Bus employed 515 people prior to COVID-19. Because of the virus and schedule changes, Cassidy confirmed the company has been forced to lay off a portion of its staff. The company currently has 80 people, including drivers, terminal staff and mechanics, working for the time being. 

“This time of year, there would be close to 350 or 400 people coming back to work for the season until November,” said Cassidy. “We can’t even invite those people back and that’s what hurts me the most, you can’t have your workers come back to work because I don’t even have a ray of hope.” 

Coach Atlantic Maritime Bus has already begun preparing for 2021. The company anticipates a 75 per cent increase, based upon numbers from the 2018-19 year. 

The Cape Breton Post contacted Carabin's Busline of Reserve Mines regarding their services for the remainder of the year. Officials with the company could not be reached for comment at press time. 

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