Saskatchewan news: Air Canada service cuts start today

Air Canada is no longer offering direct flights between Calgary and two other cities, Saskatoon and Regina, starting today.

The airline announced its decision in early December 2022, writing in a statement to CTV News at the time that, “After careful review, we’ve decided that we must continue to strategically focus on rebuilding our main hubs of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.”

A search Monday for flights from Calgary to Saskatoon and Regina shows routes with layovers in Vancouver and Edmonton.

“It would appear that Air Canada, in terms of restructuring its fleet – going to larger airplanes, removing some of its smaller airplanes – maybe no longer feels that the Saskatchewan to Calgary market is sufficient to justify those larger planes,” Keith Willoughby, dean of the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan and a professor of management science, told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday.

The removal of a service that people in Saskatchewan have enjoyed for years now leaves a “void” in the province, Willoughby added, especially with the relaxation of pandemic restrictions last year and an increase in travel.

WestJet continues to offer direct flights between Calgary and Saskatchewan. Not long after Air Canada’s announcement, low-cost carrier Flair Airlines said it would also offer daily flights between Calgary and Saskatoon starting in May.

“I think the fear with people here in the province is that now with one major airline providing that service will Saskatchewan residents — the consumer travellers, the business travellers — now see an increase in fares and I think that’s a concern for the Saskatchewan population,” Willoughby said.

The move by Air Canada comes as Sunwing suspends all of its operations in Saskatchewan until Feb. 3.

Sunwing angered many air travellers this past holiday season after the airline cancelled flights following a severe winter storm and a breakdown in its digital communication service.

In 2018, Greyhound Canada cancelled virtually all of its bus routes in Western Canada.

United Airlines cancelled direct flights from Regina and Saskatoon to Denver, Colo., in 2015. And in 2020, Delta suspended flights to Saskatoon.

Willoughby said these recent flight cancellations could make it harder for the province to compete economically with rest of the world in terms of recruiting for certain positions or bringing in people for conferences.

“Saskatchewan is home to a really vibrant business economy, a business culture, here,” he said. “We’re seeing tremendous increases in tech and mining, and with those opportunities not being available it really does hamper the business opportunities in the province.”

With files from CTV News Saskatoon Multi-Skilled Journalist Tyler Barrow, CTV News Saskatoon Multi-Skilled Journalist Laura Woodward, CTV News Saskatoon Digital Journalist Chandra Philip and The Canadian Press

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