Top News

Changes in the air at Sydney Airport

Passengers depart off an Air Canada flight at the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport on Friday. Officials of the Sydney airport say some changes are coming that will impact early morning flights and travel from Sydney to Halifax. Officials with the Sydney airport have said to keep the services going, the public has to use them. SHARON MONTGOMERY-DUPE/CAPE BRETON POST
Passengers depart off an Air Canada flight at the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport on Friday. Officials of the Sydney airport say some changes are coming that will impact early morning flights and travel from Sydney to Halifax. Officials with the Sydney airport have said to keep the services going, the public has to use them. SHARON MONTGOMERY-DUPE/CAPE BRETON POST - Sharon Montgomery-Dupe
RESERVE MINES, N.S. —

There are changes in the air at the Sydney airport. 

There are also concerns.

“We are always concerned whenever we lost a service or see the number of flight frequencies reduced,” said Mike MacKinnon, CEO of the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport.

The winter schedule will eliminate any early morning flights until mid-December and will also impact Sydney to Halifax travel. 

MacKinnon said the 6 a.m. Air Canada flight to Montreal was only for the 2019 summer/fall season and was always scheduled to end on Oct. 26. The West Jet 5:35 a.m. flight to Halifax, is changing to an afternoon 3 p.m. departure as of Oct. 27.

As well, MacKinnon said Sydney to Halifax day trips will be a challenge this winter with the first departure to Halifax departing at 9:15 a.m. and the return flight departing from Halifax at 4:10 p.m. 

MacKinnon said airlines make schedule adjustments based on historic passenger usage and anticipated demand flows. 

Before May 2019 the Sydney airport did have two early morning flights to Halifax, West Jet and Air Canada. 

“When early morning departures are not being supported sufficiently, the airlines will look to adjust their operating schedules to operate at times during the day that will produce sustainable traffic flows.“

MacKinnon said they have regular discussions with the two major airlines regarding commercial air services in Sydney. 

Both their partner airlines need to be able to operate profitably, meaning the air services from Sydney need to be supported by the travelling public. 

Driving to Halifax to catch a flight doesn’t improve air services from Cape Breton, MacKinnon added.

“Existing air services need to be well supported and then there is more likelihood that additional services can be added.”

However for business trips traveling Halifax to Sydney the schedule is good with the first flight departing Halifax at 7:55 a.m. arriving in Sydney at 8:44 a.m. and the return flight to Halifax departing Sydney at 5:30 p.m.

MacKinnon said they hear from travellers just about every time the airlines make a schedule change, because usually someone’s itinerary is impacted to some extent.

Although the Sydney Airport follows up with those who contact them and ensures complaints are brought forward to the individual airlines, people have to complain directly to their airline.

“We (the SAA) do not make these scheduling decisions, those are business decisions made by the airlines, who are in business to make a profit,” MacKinnon added.

Paul Carrigan, manager of the Port of Sydney Development Corp., said any loss of service of flights at the airport is not always the best thing.

“It’s also important that they have these flights and offer good prices for them.”

Carrigan said he’d have to know the reasoning behind the decision. However if a service is being cut because there’s not enough traffic, then it stands to reason.

Maybe if and when the early flights do resume, people should be encouraged to use it, he said.

“Some marketing around that would be good by both Air Canada and West Jet and whoever is offering the service. We have to support it though. If we don’t support it, we’ll lose it.”

Business day trips from Sydney to Toronto will be possible when the early morning 5:15 a.m. Air Canada flight returns Dec. 15-Feb. 14, although may be extended.

“Which will allow for excellent connectivity to the rest of the Canada, the USA and the world,” MacKinnon said.

The return flight will arrive back in Sydney at 1:22 a.m. allowing for connections back to Sydney without having to overnight in Toronto.

MacKinnon said the winter Air Canada schedule is still being worked on due to the unknown return date of the Boeing 737-Max. Although the aircraft doesn’t operate here, the impact has been felt due to numerous network scheduling adjustments. 

This winter, Air Canada will offer two daily flights between Sydney and Halifax on the larger Q-400 and once daily service to Toronto with an E175. 

In an email response to a request for comment, Air Canada officials say they continue to collaborate with community stakeholders about their service. In response to increased demand, last summer Air Canada says they introduced non-stop service between Sydney and Montreal for the peak travel season. Air Canada says they continuously review its schedule based on commercial and operational issues such as availability of aircraft. 

Morgan Bell, communications for West Jet, said they move to one Halifax-Sydney flight daily for their winter schedule, Nov. 4-April 25.

In an email response, Bell said changes to frequency between Sydney and Halifax is solely due to our winter schedule coming into effect, it’s consistent with last year and past seasonal schedules of this time frame. However as of May West Jet will be resuming two Sydney to Halifax flights daily, at 5:45 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Passenger traffic was down seven per cent at the Sydney airport compared to 2018. CEO Mike MacKinnon said it’s disappointing but not entirely unexpected given the reduction in Air Canada flight frequencies and seat capacity to Halifax, which went into effect in May 2019. 

“We are in discussion with both airlines regarding the spring/summer 2020 schedules.”

sharon.montgomery@cbpost.com

 

Recent Stories