Last year they called it a “dangerous predator” — this year it’s but a mewling pussycat.
Air Canada will drop its Iqaluit-Ottawa-Montreal non-stop jet service Aug. 1, saying the route “did not meet the profitability targets set,” an Air Canada spokesperson said July 4 in an email.
“I can’t disclose the specifics (due to competitive information), but can confirm that in an environment of high fuel costs, we have to look to ensure each and every route we operate meets profitability targets set,” Angela Mah, Air Canada’s corporate communications manger in Vancouver, said in the email.
Mah said Air Canada is contacting customers with tickets booked on flights beyond Aug. 1 so they can be “re-accommodated” on Canadian North flights.
Air Canada will maintain its interline arrangment with Canadian North, which means any Canadian North customer may connect with Air Canada flights on a single ticket and have their bags checked through to their final destination, Mah said.
Last week, air travellers discovered they are no longer able to book flights to or from Iqaluit on Air Canada after July 31, fueling speculation that the airline decided to drop the service.
Air Canada, through its separately-owned Jazz affiliate, launched the service on March 28, 2010, offering one-way Iqaluit-Ottawa fares that started at $599.
When Air Canada announced that plan in the fall of 2009, the move was denounced by northern airline operators, who claimed the national carrier was exploiting a vulnerable northern market by picking off the most profitable route.
In November 2009, South Baffin MLA Fred Schell called Air Canada a “dangerous and unwelcome predator” that helps “overpaid bureaucrats” enjoy cheaper tickets from Iqaluit to Ottawa.
But as of this week, Air Canada’s one-way Iqaluit-Ottawa fare had risen to $729, virtually identical to fares posted by competitors First Air and Canadian North.
The daily flight on Air Canada Jazz originated in Montreal, stopped in Ottawa and arrive in Iqaluit just before 1 p.m.., seven days a week.
Lisa Hicks, marketing manager for the Canadian North airline, said in an email July 4 that no Canadian North workers will be laid off as a result of the Air Canada pull-out.
Under an agreement, Canadian North has provided Air Canada Jazz with ground services, such as ticket processing and baggage handling, since March 2010.
“Because Air Canada’s flight operated in the middle of our hub time, it meant extra duties for our staff rather than extra bodies. Therefore, we do not anticipate any staffing changes at this time, particularly with the busy summer period,” Hicks said in an email.
As for Air Canada, they’re not ruling out a return to the Iqaluit market at some point in the future.
“We would look to potentially resume service to Iqaluit at another time, depending on demand, other economic factors such as fuel prices, and aircraft availability,” Mah said.
An Air Canada Jazz Bombardier CRJ 705 jet parked outside the Iqaluit air terminal in July 2010.
JIM BELL Nunatsiaq News
Gravity always wins!