KLM finds creative way to bring service to Europe back to Edmonton
Airport still not on the list of ports of entry for flights from Europe
It was never the most active gateway to Europe, but KLM has found a way to bring service to the Continent back to Edmonton International Airport. Starting October 29, KLM will link Edmonton and Amsterdam twice a week on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
To do it, KLM is launching a ‘great circle’ route that will depart Amsterdam and land in Calgary. All passengers – including those continuing to Edmonton – will get off and pass through customs. People continuing to Edmonton will get back on, along with new Amsterdam-bound passengers from Calgary. The plane will then swap passengers in Edmonton before returning to Europe.
Calgary is one of four Canadian airports allowed to accept flights from Europe and Asia. The federal government put the restrictions in place in March, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also closed Canada’s borders to most foreign leisure travellers. Edmonton has not welcomed an international traveller since then. Canada counts travellers from the United States in a separate category, called transborder travel.
“Resuming international service is a major priority for us,” said Tom Ruth, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Edmonton International Airport. “Service to Amsterdam will help open the world back up for our passengers as well as provide an important cargo route. KLM has been a tremendous partner for EIA and the Edmonton Metro Region and we’re glad to have one of the world’s oldest and top airlines returning to our runways.”
What’s old is new again
The Netherlands allows Canadians to travel to Amsterdam without restriction. The Canadian government continues to warn citizens against non-essential travel outside the country. Most people who enter Canada must complete a 14-day quarantine before resuming their lives.
The service harkens back to one offered by Air Canada in the 1980s. What was then Canada’s flag carrier offered a similar service linking Calgary and Edmonton to Europe through London-Heathrow. The now-defunct Canadian Airlines International flew from Vancouver to Amsterdam with stops in Edmonton or Calgary along the way.
The latest data show 142,000 passengers flew through Edmonton in July, a drop of 81% from 2019. Calgary did not count any international travellers in May or June. In July, 1,978 international passengers flew into Calgary after KLM re-launched Amsterdam service. Overall, the number of passengers was down 83% in Alberta’s largest city.
Airlines call for testing
The International Air Transport Association – which represents most of the world’s airlines, called Tuesday for systematic testing of all passengers.
“The key to restoring the freedom of mobility across borders is systematic COVID-19 testing of all travellers before departure,” said IATA’s Director General Alexandre de Juniac. “This will give governments the confidence to open their borders without complicated risk models that see constant changes in the rules imposed on travel. Testing all passengers will give people back their freedom to travel with confidence. And that will put millions of people back to work.”
Westjet and Air Canada are both in the process of gathering data and developing potential rapid COVID tests.
The pandemic has decimated airline service. Major cities such as Ottawa, Halifax, and Winnipeg have lost all international service and have yet to get it back. The Atlantic Canada Airports Association reported Tuesday that the region lost 3.7 million passengers between April and August. Airports in the region expect to lose $76 million this year as a result.
“Frankly we’ve already hit rock bottom in terms of revenue losses and now it’s like the bottom is falling out: as the pandemic continues and Atlantic Canada remains cut off from the rest of the country, we do not see any recovery in sight, which means our airport losses will continue to mount,” said ACAA Executive Director Monette Pasher.
Around the world, IATA said passenger traffic is down 92% over 2019 because of the pandemic.
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