The province’s strategy to improve air access is off the ground.
And if the plan aimed at increasing flights and passenger demand works, Business Minister Ross Wiseman thinks travellers will see lower prices.
“The industry is no different than others; it’s driven by supply and demand. If we are successful in achieving one of the objectives here (which) is to increase capacity in the system, we should have an impact on the cost,” he told reporters following a news conference at The Rooms.
The five-year initiative is called “Taking Flight: An Air Access Strategy for Newfoundland and Labrador” and the province will pump $5 million into it over the first three years.
The plan involves promoting the province to airlines, business and travellers, as well as fostering relations with carriers and airport authorities. The goal is to increase flights to, from and within Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Improving air access is important to helping us achieve our goals,” Wiseman said in announcing the strategy. “It will make travelling to and from Newfoundland and Labrador easier and more efficient. It will make the province a more attractive place to visit and to do business.”
Lower prices would be wind beneath the travelling public’s wings, as pricey airfares have kept many here on the ground over the years.
People commenting on the internet version of this story at www.thetelegram.com were quick to support government’s plan.
“This is a great idea,” wrote a person posting under the name “Forward Progress.”
“It costs far too much money to fly in and do business in Newfoundland. Flights to/from (the province) are always full and last-minute flight pricing does not exist in St. John’s. The price only goes one way — up. Let’s get some more flights/airlines at the table. People would fly much more often (if) the prices were fair at all times, not one year in advance.”
One of the measures to build collaboration with industry players is a $4 million fund to help airports develop business opportunities and airlines to market new routes.
“Working with the airport authorities on the front end getting the carriers in, (and) working with the airlines themselves in promoting the routes they just introduced, we believe is a recipe for success,” Wiseman told media.
The strategy also involves hiring a director of air access to oversee the plan and setting up of an advisory committee to provide ongoing input.
“Taking Flight” follows consultations and a study on air transportation.
Its release was met with enthusiasm from people in the industry.
“(We’re) very pleased with the approach,” said Jamie Schwartz, CEO of the Deer Lake Regional Airport.
“It’s fairly obvious to us that the department listened to the stakeholders and we were consulted with extensively.”
Calvin Ash, director of commercial operations with Provincial Airlines, was also pleased.
“It gives us opportunities to avail of a program that could help us expand upon our extensive flight network throughout the province of Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said.
Susan Grant, Air Canada’s regional general manager of sales for Atlantic Canada, liked that the province was willing to invest in air access.
“We welcome any partnership opportunities,” she said.