For the first time in almost a decade, travellers on both sides of the Atlantic will be able to fly year-round direct between London and St. John’s.
In recent years, Air Canada has only offered direct flights between St. John’s International Airport and London Heathrow during late spring and summer. For the rest of the year, those travelling between the two cities would typically have to fly to Toronto or Halifax before reaching their final destination, adding hours to the trip.
That will all change beginning this fall when the airline begins offering year-round direct service. Air Canada will be the only airline with year-round, non-stop service between Newfoundland and Labrador and Europe.
“Since we have reconvened our Heathrow service in 2009, there always was an intention to extend it to a year-round operation, and we feel that now is the time to do that,” said Kevin Howlett, senior vice-president of regional markets for Air Canada. He spoke with reporters at St. John’s International Airport Monday.
“What has happened here in
St. John’s since 2009, your strong economy has created more demand for air service, and Air Canada has been responsive to meet this increasing demand and has become a strategic partner in your economic development here in the province and in the city.”
Daily flights in summer
The direct route will operate daily during the summer. For the remainder of the year, three weekly flights will depart from St. John’s on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays and fly back to Newfoundland the same day. They will depart from St. John’s at 12:40 a.m. and arrive in London at 9:15 a.m. local time, then leave London at 11:05 a.m. and return to
St. John’s at 1:05. p.m. local time.
When Air Canada decided in May 2006 to cancel direct passenger and cargo flights from St. John’s to London, it said the route was not profitable enough.
Keith Collins, president and CEO of the St. John’s International Airport Authority, expressed optimism Monday that the year-round route will perform well for the airliner.
Passenger traffic growing
“Our passenger traffic has been growing over the last few years to all of our destinations, but in particular it’s been growing to European destinations, and so the need for a year-round direct service to a key hub like Heathrow is a very strong addition for our airport,” said Collins, who expects there may even be the potential to offer more than three weekly flights.
“We’re confident that three days a week is very sustainable, and in fact I wouldn’t be surprised to see that increase in the years to come, but no concerns about this failing in the near term and going back to the seasonal service.”
The St. John’s Board of Trade has advocated for a return of the year-round route between St. John’s and London, citing its usefulness to the business community. Board chairwoman Sharon Horan was pleased with Monday’s announcement.
“This is just great news. Our priority at the board of trade is to really sustain the prosperity that we’re experiencing right now, and that means that we do have to diversify our economy and look for new business opportunities, and having direct access to Europe year-round is just going to be great for business in terms of them making those contacts.”
Innovation, Business and Rural Development Minister Susan Sullivan also noted the year-round direct route’s potential effect on the tourism sector and how it will benefit from the recent Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) for free trade between Canada and Europe.
“CETA positions Newfoundland and Labrador to take advantage of the largest consumer market in the world for our goods and services, including minerals, oil and gas, fish, seafood and ocean technology. Having year-round access to Europe through this service enhances our already strong presence in these markets and allows us to take full advantage now of the gains we will realize through CETA, which is the most comprehensive free-trade agreement ever negotiated.”
Year-round service will begin Oct. 26.