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Steve Bartlett
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Province releases plan to improve air access

Business Minister Ross Wiseman announces a five-year strategy to increase air access to, from and within the province.

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.


Twitter: @bartlett_steve

Organizations: Regional Airport, Provincial Airlines, Air Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Deer Lake, Atlantic Canada

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Recent comments

  • KD
    October 16, 2010 - 17:09

    If airlines are currently goughing customers why hasn`t the government stepped in and held them accountable instead of giving them more tax payers money It currently costs $1600.00 for a return trip from wabush to st john`s even if we had ten airlines flying out of wabush all would charge the same rates I think the government should forget this idea even at the high rates if the airlines are making a normal profit then we just have to suck it up

  • Bishop
    October 15, 2010 - 05:47

    Waste of money.....throw more money away on nothing that will ever recover the money already spent (the original report)....I have read that report and it is 85% photos of our airports along with some photos of some jets..... high school project type stuff..... an absolute waste of our money. Adding to that, apparently people in the aviation world are just plain blind. How else can you explain that all of the airlines in Europe, Africa and the Americas don't all have daily service to at least St Johns. My gosh there should be a line up for takeoff and landing slots all over the island, no?........... Well they are not blind and nor are they stupid. They are businesses and as such the only way they are going to put any money into this island's aviation market is if the governments back them up and guarantee them x amount per seat. That way the numbers will go up for tourisim and then come election time we can be inundated with political speeches claiming how they have put NL on the map for air travel...plus you get an extra flight to Florida in the winter at a lower price.....(except you are paying for it in your taxes....HA!)....good luck what a joke!

  • Turry from town
    October 14, 2010 - 20:19

    Airlines are not going to fly in to NL for a handfull of passengers. Sure there are some who would love a subsidy,but they only want to grab the loot and go.More airlines does not mean lower fares,the law of diminishing returns.Ever see the breakdown of airline fares?Not only taxes,but fees airlines have to pay the private run airports,rents,landing fees etc....and the larger the tin,the higher the fees.

  • Brad
    October 14, 2010 - 10:26

    It is about time something was done about this. It is cheaper for me to fly to the Caribbean than Newfoundland, and the weather is a hell of alot nicer there too. Eugene considering at peak times most flights are sold out, I don't think there would be a problem keeping the planes at near capacity, and if the prices were cheaper there would be more people flying.

  • Ed Samson
    October 14, 2010 - 09:56

    What a complete waste of TAXPAYERS money. The highest concentration of population is on the NE Avalon and that's probably only about 225,000 people. If the market was large enough the airlines would come and there would be competition. Sure some companies will grab this cash and go. I would rather see my tax dollars go somewhere else. Ed Samson

  • Reduced Costs of Travel
    October 14, 2010 - 09:18

    Eugene, I don't entirely agree with what you are proposing I do a lot of travel and I tend to think that the planes currently used are completely adequate. You do have a point with the per person cost of a ticket. The airlines have too much flexibilty and no interest in reducing costs. I have been on planes going to other parts of Canada that were nearly half empty. Why? Because they charge an arm and a leg for a ticket. If they dropped the price per person and filled the seats it would not only help them make more money but represent a cost savings to the passengers. Also next time you are on a plane strike a conversation with your neighbour, I'm willing to bet you didn't pay the same amount for your ticket. Here's an idea if anyone out there actually reads this, if you want to consult an airline that would bring costs down and increase competition and travel here in the province. Consult Mr. Branson and get a deal with virgin airlines...Simply put the best use of the publics time and money. They would destroy Air Canada here in this province over night.

    • The death of Air Canada
      October 14, 2010 - 15:21

      "They would destroy Air Canada here in this province overnight" And that's exactly what most people want isn't it. So what would we do if AC did die? You say Westjet and Porter would fill in...yeah right. Don't kid yourselves! Air Canada has almost 20 flights per day into St. John's compared with Westjet's 3 and Porter's 4 flights. That equals 7 between them. Not even half of what Air Canada flies. Westjet and Porter don't have enought planes to pick up the slack if Air Canada dies. I know a few people who work at westjet and they have told me many times that they (Westjet) would not be able to come close to providing the same number of flights that Air Canada flies into St. John's. You say then we will get other airlines to fly here. If other airlines, domestic or international, were interested in flying here, then THEY WOULD ALREADY BE FLYING HERE!! Sure Coninental Airlines flies into St. John's, but even they only use a small 45 seat plane for 10 months of the year. You mentioned Richard Branson and Virgin Atlantic...Mr. Branson knows he can't send a Boeing 747 with 400 seats into St. John's and expect to fill it. Not even once a week! Kill Air Canada...sure!! As well as the 40,000 employees Air Canada has as well as countless other employees of hotels, restaurants, taxi drivers, etc,etc!! You could say goodbye to our fragile economy as well. I can see the line up's at EI and Welfare. 40,000+ people in the matter of a few days, WOW!! Another thought to ponder, if you look at the cost of air travel back in the 1950's-1970's and you add in inflation, the high cost of fuel, insurance rates, landing fees at airports, the price of airplanes, etc, then the average cost of a one way ticket between St. John's and Toronto should be in the range of $4000+ per person. Be glad you don't have to pay that for a flight. Maybe the Arm-Chair executives around here should really think about these things before they wish for the death of Air Canada or any other airline or company.

  • Eugene
    October 14, 2010 - 07:40

    Increased capacity (although it helps) is not the main issue for reducing ticket costs. The cost per passenger per mile is a better determining factor. For example if you have a plane which cost $4000.00 per hour to own and operate, five passenger would have to pay $800.00 to break even, but 50 passengers would reduce cost to $80.00. To reduce cost per passenger per mile we need bigger planes operating at near full capacity. Even with fewer flights this should reduce prices as long as we are satisfied with fewer flights and a less flexible schedule. The questions are: "Can we have someone operate larger planes?" and "Will they be able to operate larger planes at near capacity?"