Central Mountain Air

Central Mountain Air suspends routes, blames Ottawa

Without direct government support to assist in maintaining operations until demand resumes, CMA can no longer continue the provision of these essential air services, airline warns

Central Mountain Air routes
A Central Mountain Air Beech 1900D taxis at Vancouver International Airport in July 2019 (Brett Ballah).

Western regional carrier Central Mountain Air is pulling service on three regional routes, ratcheting up pressure on the federal government to support Canada’s airlines.

The airline said Tuesday it would suspend service between Kamloops, Prince George, and Fort Nelson, British Columbia. It is also suspending flights between Edmonton and High Level, Alberta for three months. High Level is a remote community a five-hour drive from the next closest airport. The airline is blaming ongoing inaction at the political level.

“Devastating declines in travel and extended provincial health advisories against non-essential travel have necessitated a significant scaling back of our scheduled operations for the foreseeable future,” commented Bob Cummings, Central Mountain Air’s Chief Executive Officer. “The federal government has been promising for almost a year that help is on the way to support these essential air services, but no such support has been received or clearly outlined. Our customers and the communities we serve are bearing the brunt of this inaction.”

The Central Mountain Air cuts come on top of a previous decision to suspend a route between Prince George and Fort St. John. The airline says it has been operating the routes at a loss for ten months.

“At this time, without direct government support to assist in maintaining operations until demand resumes, CMA can no longer continue the provision of these essential air services,” the airline said in a news release.

Cut off from the world

CMA’s announcement is the second blow to Kamloops, a region with more than 100,000 people in central British Columbia. Air Canada pulled service from the community, leaving only Westjet service.

The cuts also add to the growing list of Canadian communities cut off from the rest of the world. This week, Air Canada will fly its last flights to Fredericton, New Brunswick and Sidney, Nova Scotia. A petition from the Cape Breton Chamber of Commerce closed late Tuesday with more than 8,000 signatures.

“This petition calls on the federal government to provide financial support to the air industry so that the national air carriers can then re-establish commercial air service to airports including the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Airport,” the chamber said in a Facebook post. Like High Level, Sydney is a five-hour drive from the nearest airport in Halifax.

Air Canada is also suspending service to Gander and Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as service to Yellowknife.

Unlike Atlantic Canada and the North, British Columbia and Alberta have no travel restrictions. However, governments advise against non-essential travel.

It all represents a continuing loss of connectivity to dozens of small and remote communities across Canada. That makes it harder to attract investment and draw visitors, the affected communities say.

“If you rely on our services and would like to voice your view that scheduled air services are critical to your community, we ask you to contact your MLA, MP, Premier or the federal Minister of Transport,” said Cummings. “With government support, we would be proud to continue to serve our customers and maintain crucial airline connectivity in British Columbia and Alberta until demand returns.”

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