Newfoundland-based air carrier PAL launches flights to YOW

PAL airplane

In another sign that Canada’s airline industry is gearing up to rise out of the COVID-induced doldrums, a Newfoundland-based carrier says it’s reviving its plans to offer flights from the East Coast to Ottawa.

PAL Airlines announced Friday it has launched service connecting its home base of St. John’s to the nation’s capital with stopovers in Deer Lake, N.L., and Moncton, N.B. The Ottawa-Deer Lake-Moncton-St. John’s route began on Thursday and will operate three days a week, with flights on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The airline is also adding a connection between Ottawa and St. John’s via Deer Lake and Fredericton that will run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays beginning this Friday. Both routes feature morning departures from Ottawa and afternoon departures from St. John’s.

The announcement comes almost a year after PAL originally said it planned to debut five-day-a-week service from St. John’s to Ottawa with a stop in Moncton. The airline said last August it would start flying to YOW once travel restrictions between Atlantic Canada and the rest of the country were lifted.

On Friday, the airline said it was “excited” to get its service to Ottawa off the ground.

“We know from working closely with the communities we serve how strong the demand for travel to Ottawa is, and we look forward to working with the Ottawa International Airport and both of our national carrier interline partner airlines to facilitate connectivity and onward travel for our customers,” PAL president Calvin Ash said in a statement.

The East Coast carrier is the latest airline to ramp up service to the nation’s capital as COVID-related restrictions begin to ease across the country and air travel picks up.

Low-cost southern flights

Earlier this month, Canadian budget carrier Flair Airlines announced it would start flying from YOW to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Las Vegas and Orlando at the end of October. Flair announced earlier this year it was adding twice-weekly flights between Ottawa and Kelowna, B.C., to its growing list of routes that are resuming this summer.

Meanwhile, Porter Airlines announced in early July it would resume flights to Ottawa on Sept. 8, nearly 18 months after it suspended all its routes due to the pandemic.

Despite the additional new routes, however, the Ottawa airport is struggling to recover from a dramatic decline in passenger volumes during the pandemic.

While the number of flights serving YOW has picked up in recent weeks, air traffic is still down more than 70 per cent compared with pre-COVID levels. 

As a result, the airport – which relies on improvement fees charged to passengers as well as terminal and landing fees, concession revenues and parking fees for most of its revenues – racked up a net loss of $51.2 million in 2020 and expects to incur an even bigger deficit this year.