Many people in Gander want to see its air connectivity to the rest of the country restored.
Since the start of the pandemic, airlines have pulled several flights from the Gander International Airport, further isolating the central Newfoundland region through a lack of air support.
On Jan. 23, Air Canada dropped the last of its flights out of Gander. That followed a pair of similar announcements earlier in the summer.
That lack of connection has had a ripple effect on businesses and people around the region.
“What we’re hearing from our members is that there is a direct impact that goes beyond the obvious,” said Hannah DeYoung, the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce’s first vice-chairperson.
With that in mind, the chamber recently created a petition to be sent to the House of Commons in Ottawa with the airport as its focus.
The group hopes to draw even more attention to the plight of airlines in the country, with particular focus on what a lack of flights to and from central Newfoundland means for the region.
The chamber is calling for the federal government to provide financial assistance to airlines in Canada, which is dependent on helping to re-establish national air service to airports like the Gander International Airport.
It also calls for an effort to ensure Gander is re-connected to the mainland, thus lessening the economic impact on the area.
Slowly, the petition has been garnering support online.
Since it was launched on Feb. 1, it was been signed by 973 people and businesses from around the country.
“What we’re hearing from our members is how it affects the supply chain,” said DeYoung. “From getting supplies to small businesses to getting inventory and getting workers in and out. That’s the immediate impact.”
The ramifications of the cancellation of flights from the airport have been top of mind of many in the town recently.
The Town of Gander has been proactive from the start in its advocacy for the airport. Recently, the town asked people to submit testimonials of how they’re connected to the airport and what the loss of those flights meant for them.
Chris Fraser has first-hand knowledge that the ramifications of the airport’s decline reach into many different areas.
As the owner and pharmacist of Gander Pharmachoice, he relies on the airport for integral parts of his business.
While a lot of his major volume of medication comes from a local supplier in St. John’s, some supplies need to come from a supplier on the mainland.
“Now, it’s basically got to be flown in somewhere or trucked in from somewhere else,” said Fraser.
Town of Gander and area needs to re-establish airline connectivity of Gander International Airport with Mainland Canada....Posted by Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce on Monday, February 8, 2021
It has led to a steady increase in wait times for the pharmacy when it comes to flying in supplies, going from next-day service to a two-day wait and now up to four days.
That means it is almost a week to wait for supplies like dressings or gauze.
“It does impact on our store. I can’t speak for others … but in the meantime, anyone who needs something quick, can’t get it flown in,” said Fraser.
There has also been talk of forming a regional committee to address their concerns and raise awareness of how much the area depends on the airport.
The hope is the petition will help magnify that effort and the voices of those directly affected by the cancellations.
“There is very much a fear that when we think about recovery and resiliency through COVID-19 and past the pandemic, there is no guarantee these flights are going to come back and that they’re going to come back at the right time,” said DeYoung. “We’re advocating for right now, but also for the recovery piece.
“That there is a plan here to make sure that when it is possible to travel and when it is possible to get somewhat back to normal, that there is access for our area.”
Nicholas Mercer is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering central Newfoundland for SaltWireNetwork. [email protected]