Air Access Strategy Drives Economic

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Keith Hutchings, PC MHA for Ferryland, said the loss of important WestJet routes to Europe is a blow to an air access strategy that was paying economic dividends. The Ball Liberals have been silent as Nova Scotia has lobbied...
Friday, December 21, 2018

St. John’s, NL (December 21, 2018) – Keith Hutchings, PC MHA for Ferryland, said the loss of important WestJet routes to Europe is a blow to an air access strategy that was paying economic dividends.  The Ball Liberals have been silent as Nova Scotia has lobbied for Newfoundland and Labrador to lose these flights to Halifax over the past year, and all the benefits that go with them.  A gateway overseas is fundamental in any global market for tourism, cultural exchange, business development, and exposing others to our part of the world.  Our affinity and ties to Ireland provide huge opportunity as we try to grow our economy and attract investment.

“The PC government in 2011 had a proactive air access strategy that delivered three new WestJet routes to our province.  The Liberals in 2015 failed to lead an air access strategy, and as a consequence, our province has three fewer WestJet routes today – two of them lost to Nova Scotia, which apparently lobbied while the Ball government was not paying attention or did not understand the importance of air connections,” said Hutchings.

While the PC government was in office, WestJet announced:

  • its first St. John’s to Dublin route in November 2013;
  • expanded service linking Deer Lake, Gander, St. John’s, Halifax and Toronto in January 2015; and
  • a new St. John’s to Gatwick route in September 2015.

Since the Ball Liberal government Way Forward plan, WestJet has announced:

  • the end of the St. John’s to Gatwick route and the start of the Halifax to Gatwick route in January 2018;
  • the end of the twice-daily run from Deer Lake to Halifax in August 2018; and
  • the end of the St. John’s to Dublin route and the expansion of the Halifax to Dublin route in November 2018.

The loss of the Dublin route is threatening the efforts of the town of Holyrood to host an international ocean technology innovation conference in 2019 in collaboration with Ireland-based groups, by driving up travel costs.

Hutchings said, “Instead of continuing to market the Ireland destination and all that it holds for a gateway to Europe for Newfoundland and Labrador, Minister Mitchelmore was taken by surprise and totally out of the loop regarding WestJet’s move.  The argument that it was a financial decision by WestJet is somewhat curious, as travel data show the use of flights places them, on both sides, at nearly 90 percent capacity.  What has happened is as a result of Nova Scotia’s lobbying.  Halifax will become WestJet’s Atlantic Canada hub for flights to and from Ireland, and its connector to the rest of Europe, rather than St. John’s.  We understand WestJet will support this with larger planes and increased flights from Nova Scotia.  Were Minister Mitchelmore or his officials even in contact with the St. John’s Airport Authority and supporting their efforts over the past three years?”

Hutchings said the end of the Newfoundland and Labrador direct route to Ireland came as a complete shock to many inside and outside our province, including:

  • Ireland Newfoundland Connections (in Ireland),
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Irish Connections (in NL),
  • Kieran Cronin of the Waterford Institute of Technology's Centre for Newfoundland and Labrador Studies,
  • Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador,
  • Cathy Duke of Destination St. John’s, and
  • St. John’s Mayor Danny Breen, among others.

“It’s no wonder our economy is underperforming when the Minster in charge of tourism and industry shows no priority or strategic understanding of what this transatlantic flight and gateway to Europe really means to the province’s future success,” he said.

Bradley Russell
Director of Policy and Research
(p) 1.709.729.3668 / (c) 1.709.685.3161

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