Signs of pre-Covid normality might soon return to the skies of the NWT as North-Wright Airways plans to resume passenger services on June 1.
The regional airline suspended passenger flights in late March because of the Covid-19 pandemic and has since been offering only cargo and charter flights.
“Now that there’s been a reduction in some of the restrictions we’re going to slowly open up some of the (flight) schedule. We’ve been working with the different governments, and they want us to reopen some of the schedules,” said Kyle Newhook, operations manager with the Norman Wells-based airline, on Wednesday.
“(And chief public health officer) Dr. Kandola has given her blessing for intra-NWT travel, because none of our flights go outside the NWT.”
The plans to resume services come less than a week after the NWT entered the first phase of the government’s Emerging Wisely recovery strategy, which permits some businesses to open and outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people.
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The schedule resumptions are also made possible by the $589,000 in assistance North-Wright received out of the $8.7 million funding package the federal government provided to Northern airlines this month.
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“Absolutely (it helps),” Newhook said. “Part of its (purpose) is to help get the schedules up and moving again.”
North-Wright’s operations in June will come back at reduced capacity, with some schedules such as the Tulita-Deline route scaled back by up to 60 per cent.
“The Norman Wells-Fort Good Hope route has been reduced by 60-70 per cent. The routes to Colville Lake by about 30 per cent. Normally the summer schedule is quite busy (and) we would do Deline-Yellowknife six days a week but now it’ll be down to three (days a week),” Newhook said.
While it won’t be a typical season of passenger flights, Newhook is looking forward to seeing how the summer pans out.
“We’ve had a lot of people inquiring about when things are going to get going. A lot of people are anxious to travel again. There’s always the whole Covid-19 issue and we want to make sure we can do things safely. It’s exiting to see things move back in a positive direction.”
Air Tindi, another airline that also received funds from the federal government will be able to ramp up its passenger services to 75 per cent of its original schedule in June “due to increased demand and community support,” said president Chris Reynolds.
The pandemic reduced its passenger services to 30 per cent of normal in March, but the $1,565,000 in federal assistance helped Air Tindi boost services to 40 per cent of normal in May.