North America’s largest float plane operator is cancelling all scheduled service, despite vowing earlier this week its planes would continue to serve remote and isolated communities.
“As the COVID-19 epidemic continues to spread throughout the Province and with safety as our top value at Harbour Air, we have decided that it is in the best interest of our employees and our customers to cease all Harbour Air scheduled service flight operations,” the airline said in a statement on its website.
The airline had already cancelled service to Seattle and Pitt Meadows as a result of the pandemic.
It hopes to resume service May 4th.
“We understand the impact that this decision has on the communities we service,” the airline said, “and because we don’t want to leave anyone stranded, as we are deemed an essential service in the province, we will continue to offer charter services which will include private flights, freight and government support services as required.”
The airline said that any charter it flies will be done with one of its Otters, allowing space for passengers and crews to keep a sufficient physical distance.
The airline did not say how many people would be laid off as a result of the decision. The number of people in aviation laid off as a direct result of COVID-19 is now more than 21,000 and that does not include a long list of people who work at airports at services such as restaurants and security checkpoints.
On Monday, the airline’s founder wrote an open letter justifying management’s decision to keep the airline going, despite ongoing concerns of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have helped families fly home to care for children whose parents are working overtime in hospitals,” wrote Greg McDougall. “We have flown doctors, nurses and paramedics. Guests who have relied on us for years to get to their medical appointments in Vancouver, still need our service.”
Harbour Air is the second Vancouver-based regional carrier to suspend service. Last Friday, Pacific Coastal announced it would ground its Beech and Saab aircraft, except those flying under contract for Westjet.