The future of air travel in and out of Edmonton was the main topic of discussion on Wednesday at a roundtable held by a major airline.
Westjet hosted the two-hour session with approximately 80 business leaders, airport officials and officials from all three levels of government.
The goal of the session was to figure out a path forward as Alberta transitions into the next phase of the pandemic.
Andy Gibbons, vice president of government and regulatory affairs for WestJet, said the airline connected with stakeholders to determine how to build back the airline’s network and connectivity.
“From the business community, it was the international connectivity and it was to better understand where we were as a company and how we saw the Edmonton market and our commitment to it.”
Gibbons said the airline also heard from stakeholders about the importance of U.S. and international flights for the tourism economy and for major events.
Westjet is lobbying for the federal government to re-think quarantine policies.
As of July 5, fully vaccinated Canadians will no longer have to quarantine upon arrival in the country; the airline wants to see that policy extended to all who are fully vaccinated, not just Canadians.
Mandatory quarantine rules for Canadian travellers are about to change
“We continue to push for a plan. The plan’s important because it takes time for us to restart. We have to put our investments, we have to put our aircraft in place so the more time we have the and the more policy certainty we have, the better we can deliver for Edmonton and for the airport and for the region,” Gibbons said.
Jeffrey Sundquist, president and CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, participated in the roundtable and said a strong economy requires a strong airport.
“If you take a look at our members and the need to move goods and services in and out of the market, direct air service is critically important.
“We need to get those U.S. destinations and the international destinations back.”
Sundquist said the risk of being relegated to a regional — as opposed to an international — airport, would hurt investment and business retention.
“If people cannot get in and out efficiently with the market, that changes behaviours and patterns… The importance of direct air service provides confidence to the market for convention business, for sporting events… in order for us to compete effectively, we need to have efficient and reliable air service,” he said.
The Edmonton International Airport (EIA), which also participated in the roundtable, has been hit hard the last 16 months; the airport previously serviced 53 destinations – it now services 13.
“For us, we’re quite encouraged at the domestic routes we’re seeing airlines introduce and we know there is demand for that kind of travel,” said Traci Bednard, vice president of corporate communications at EIA.
Edmonton airport working to attract lost international flights
“I think the work our community has committed to do to work with our airline partners is to build and attract as soon as possible those U.S., international routes in order to really generate the economic recovery that our region needs.”
In a statement to Global News, Air Canada said it is supporting partners in the tourism and hospitality sectors with service to 50 Canadian cities.
The statement also said the airline is working with various provinces and stakeholders to call on the federal government to safely reopen international travel.
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