Air Canada discontinued multiple routes in June due to the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on travel
A regional airline headquartered in St. John's is prepared to add capacity and adjust its schedule as needed in response to Air Canada's indefinite discontinuation of multiple routes in Newfoundland and Labrador.
PAL Airlines, which operates flights serving Newfoundland and Labrador as well as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec, issued a news release Thursday stating its intention do what it can to meet the needs of renewed travel demand. In a subsequent interview, director of business development and sales Janine Browne said PAL is going to respond to what service is needed in light of Air Canada's recent changes.
"The answer is 'yes' in response to that," she said. "Any capacity that we see a need for, we are going to make sure there are seats there for that capacity."
On June 30, Air Canada announced it was indefinitely discontinuing 30 regional routes, seven of which were in Newfoundland and Labrador. All routes involved interprovincial travel except for one from Wabush in Labrador to Sept Iles, Que. It also announced the closure of Air Canada stations in Bathurst, N.B. and Wabush. Air Canada cited weak demand for business and leisure travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the impetus for the changes.
While PAL has not made any immediate capacity changes yet in response to Air Canada's decisions, Browne said the airline is focusing on remaining flexible.
"The reality is that it's a little bit of a moving target," she said. "We're not announcing anything firm at the moment, because it's changing a lot. As we see the demand changing and, of course, as people are becoming more comfortable with travelling again after COVID, we're seeing more and more tickets being booked."
Browne said PAL is keeping its ear to the ground through conversations with local stakeholders such as local chambers of commerce.
Like most companies in the industry, PAL Airlines has been forced to make moves in response to decreased demand for flight travel. In March, CBC reported its parent company, the PAL Group of Cos., issued temporary layoff notices to over 300 employees at the airline and PAL Aerospace.
Browne said there has been a noticeable increase in flight demand over the last few weeks.
"As we're seeing that demand pick up again, of course we're scheduling more flights, so we need more crews, more flight attendants, more reservations agents," she said. "We are seeing that increase starting to trickle back in."
In the news release, Goose Bay Airport Corp. general manager Goronwy Price applauded the company's efforts to serve airports in the province.
“PAL Airlines has worked closely with our organization to make sure their service is meeting the needs of business and leisure travellers in Happy Valley-Goose Bay,” he said. “We appreciate how quickly they’ve been able to meet market demand and provide the vital air services that sustain local business and promote economic development in our community.”