(Quebec) Air Canada “abandons” the regions, accusing elected officials who deplore the carrier’s decision to end a dozen regional routes in Quebec.
“This is an outright abandonment,” said the mayor of Gaspé, Daniel Côté.
Air Canada announced Tuesday the indefinite suspension of some 30 regional routes across the country. Many of them affect Quebec, including Gaspé, Mont-Joli, Sept-Îles, Baie-Comeau and Val-d´Or.
Several elected officials are now asking the Canadian and Quebec governments to intervene. Others want to launch a reflection on the creation of a new Quebec airline, a kind of “Quebecair 2.0” to ensure the connection in the region.
Air Canada explains that its decision stems from the context of COVID-19. The company says it is losing $ 20 million a day.
“Faced with this unsustainable situation, Air Canada has no other choice than to take decisive measures to lighten its cost structure and slow the depletion of its cash flow,” explains a spokesperson for the company, Pascale. Dery.
The decision will have significant impacts on several cities in Quebec. In Gaspé, for example, it signifies the outright end of Air Canada’s presence. Its connection to Quebec allowed business people to reach major centers or tourists to visit the region.
“If we want to ensure real economic recovery in the region after the pandemic, it takes reliable and economical air transport,” notes Mayor Côté.
Air Canada will also no longer have a presence in Val-d´Or. “I find Air Canada’s way of teaching us that very cavalier. It is unacceptable, “said the mayor, Pierre Corbeil. The company announced its decision in a statement on Tuesday.
Mayor Corbeil says that Air Canada transported 20,878 passengers in 2019 to Val-d´Or. These people will now have to travel 105 km further to Rouyn-Noranda airport or take a flight with the regional airline Air Creebec.
“These passengers are not just people going out on business or going to the south, they are also medical specialists who come to see patients in the region, professors who come to teach at the university,” said- he.
Air Canada notes that “the profitability of the regional network depends on connections on the domestic and international network. “
“Regional roads cannot be maintained only with local traffic,” adds Mme Dery.
Since international traffic has dropped drastically, regional connections would therefore have been doubly loss-making. The airline industry will take a minimum of three years to recover, the manufacturer said. But that does not mean that these regional lines will be reactivated in three years. Air Canada does not commit to anything and in the regions, no one is under any illusions.
“What we see today is that when the shareholders do not find their account there, it jeopardizes the air service of the regions of Quebec”, advance Réjean Porlier, mayor of Sept-Îles.
The elected official believes that an airport represents a tool for economic development for a region. He should be treated as such according to him.
“We must seriously think about a number two Quebecair. We should say to ourselves: “this is our ambition: to develop Quebec”. And that requires quality air links at competitive prices. ”
The mayor of Gaspé is also considering the idea of uniting the regions and creating a new player. “We could hit Air Canada for months, but that would not solve the problem, says Daniel Côté. Should we, the regions together, look towards a cooperative model? Is there another regional carrier in Quebec that could fill the void? ”
Some existing private carriers could also fill the void left by Air Canada’s departure in several regions. The mayor of Val-d´Or believes that several passengers will turn to Air Creebec.
Saint-Hubert Pascan Aviation’s company plans to regain regional market share from Air Canada.
“We consider that we are very well positioned,” notes Yani Gagnon, co-owner of Pascan Aviation.
“It is certain and certain that the travel needs for the regions remain. There will have to be a solution, he says. I think Pascan is very well positioned to take over and come up with an interesting alternative solution for the regions. ”
Meanwhile, the member for Matane and the interim leader of the Parti Québécois asks Ottawa to impose strict conditions if Air Canada requests public funds.
“I hope that the Government of Canada, if it should happen to help them once again, will do so as a priority to ensure the liaison of the regions and reimburse the trips that have not been honored,” said Pascal Bérubé.
“This is one of the most dreadful news for the development of our regions in a long time,” he said.
Affected links in Quebec
– Baie-Comeau – Montreal
– Baie-Comeau – Mont-Joli
– Gaspé-Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine
– Sept-Îles – Quebec
– Val-d´Or – Montreal
– Mont-Joli – Montreal
– Rouyn-Noranda – Val-d´Or