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Cape Bretoners who dream of a European vacation might want to start planning.
“This summer connectivity from Sydney to the U.K. and beyond is better than ever,“ said Mike MacKinnon, CEO of the JA Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport.
MacKinnon said beginning April 26 WestJet Encore flight 3487 departs YQY at 8 p.m., offering cost-effective, quick and convenient connections to WestJet’s growing network from Halifax to Europe. Connections are specifically to Dublin, Glasgow, London (Gatwick) and starting in June, Manchester, England.
Advertised fares show it’s actually cheaper to fly from Sydney than from Halifax in many cases, MacKinnon said.
“The quick connection times at Halifax mean you can leave Sydney after supper and be in one of those incredible destinations the next morning for breakfast.”
MacKinnon said the overall spring/summer 2020 flight schedule from Sydney is a good one, with two world-class air carriers consumers can choose between.
“Air fares on display right now are very good, so plan ahead, book early and fly from your local Cape Breton airport this summer.”
Service to Halifax this spring/summer will see a total of four flights per day each way, between WestJet Encore and Air Canada Express, effective April 26 with all flights operated by the Q400 turboprop 78-seat aircraft. WestJet will depart Sydney for Halifax at 5:45 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily, and Air Canada will depart from Sydney at 9:15 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
MacKinnon said service to Toronto will see the daily Air Canada flight depart from Sydney at 12:05 p.m. effective May 1, while WestJet flight No. 281 will depart from Sydney direct to Toronto at 7:30 p.m., from June 25-Aug. 31.
In June 2019, Air Canada launched a new direct flight to Montreal service and following a successful season, will be operating it again beginning June 1, departing Sydney at 6 a.m., arriving in Montreal at 7:15 a.m. MacKinnon said the flight will offer Cape Breton air travellers excellent connectivity options from Montreal into the Air Canada network across Canada, throughout North America and the world.
During the peak summer schedule, from June 25-Aug. 31, Air Canada Express and WestJet Encore, will provide four direct flights to Halifax a day, two to Toronto a day and one to Montreal.
Total daily seat capacity on the three routes is unchanged from last year’s schedule, with 312 seats per day available to Halifax, 265 to Toronto and 78 seats to Montreal.
Although there are very few flight changes this year, MacKinnon said that was expected because of the unresolved 737 Max issues with an Air Canada representative agreeing they are still dealing with the worldwide grounding of the 737 Max.
“This event, which is wholly out of our control and has now extended until the summer of 2020, had made it necessary to revise our entire schedule across the network to ensure the optimal utilization of our fleet to best serve our customers,” said the Air Canada spokesperson.
“As such, we are unable at this time to tell you what the spring/summer schedule will look like in Sydney."
WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell said at this time they do not anticipate any changes to scheduled service to Sydney and the full schedule is now available for spring and summer booking online.
MacKinnon said the winter flight schedule generated some complaints from travellers who wanted an early morning flight and late evening return flight, so they worked with the carriers and Air Canada adjusted its Toronto flight to an early morning/late evening return service from Dec. 15-Feb. 15. The spring/summer 2020 schedule does have early morning flights to Halifax and Montreal and a late evening return from Halifax.
As in the past, airport officials are encouraging Cape Bretoners to fly from Sydney to Halifax, saying if the service is not used, the airport will suffer the consequences.
MacKinnon said unfortunately, they haven’t seen much improvement with people continuing to drive to Halifax to catch a flight. Comparing the cost of driving — gas, food, parking, accommodations — and time spent driving, flying from Sydney is often more convenient, less stressful and when booked early, fares are competitive.
“When all factors are considered, flying from Sydney is the way to go and you are supporting a local business that creates jobs and contributes to the Cape Breton economy, which I know many people want to do and we appreciate that. “
“We have to build passenger traffic levels from Sydney before we can expect to see expanded services.”