Air Canada is suspending all passenger service to and from Yellowknife effective Jan. 23.
“Operating in this environment is not sustainable and we have made difficult decisions to suspend all passenger operations to Yellowknife Airport until further notice, effective Jan. 23,” said a spokesperson from Air Canada.
“Our overall network capacity is currently down about 80 per cent from the last normal year which was 2019. Air Canada will continue to evaluate and adjust its route network as required in response to the trajectory of the pandemic and travel restrictions.”
Infrastructure Minister Diane Archie said the suspension of Air Canada flights into Yellowknife is “disappointing” news to the GNWT but it understands that market conditions means hard decisions have to be made.
“The GNWT looks forward to a time when those conditions change,” she said.
The end of Air Canada flights on Jan. 23 will eliminate some options for NWT residents when traveling by air, she added.
“NWT residents should take some comfort knowing that essential services provided by our NWT airports will not be impacted by this change. This includes our ability to provide necessary medical travel services that NWT residents depend on to access care and services outside the territory.”
Mayor Rebecca Alty said on Tuesday morning that it was “tough news but recognizing that air travel is quite down across (the country), it is not unexpected.
“It’s definitely not great news to start the year off.”
Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce president Tim Syer said the national airline’s decision to suspend service to Yellowknife demonstrates the toll the pandemic is taking on the NWT economy.
“This underscores the urgent need to proceed with vaccinations as quickly as possible and for the GNWT to develop the Emerging Stronger plan,” he said.
A spokesperson for Canadian North, which also operates passengers flights to Yellowknife said the company understands the challenges of operating during the pandemic and sympathizes with those affected by Air Canada’s decision.
“Our focus remains on our commitment to providing safe and reliable airline services wherever we fly and we also intend to maintain our current services,” said spokesperson Kevin Kablutsiak.
Canadian North passenger traffic is currently down 65 to 70 per cent compared to normal, Kablutsiak said. At the lowest point since the pandemic began traffic was down by 90 per cent.