Krista Ross, CEO Fredericton Chamber of Commerce
John Wishart, CEO The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton
David Duplisea, CEO The Chamber, Saint John Region
The world is currently experiencing never-before-seen reductions in air travel and New Brunswick airports and airline service are not immune from the related impacts.
All airports in New Brunswick have unfortunately seen suspensions and service reductions from the largest airlines. Fredericton, Saint John and Bathurst currently have no scheduled flights and Moncton’s access has been significantly reduced. We understand the need for these decisions, but the effects of the pandemic are temporary, and we are confident that when global air travel rebounds, so will the market in our region.
This temporary decrease in demand for air service in the province has provoked discussion about reducing the number of airports in the province. It is our position that this is not beneficial to our members, the business community and the general public. With airlines expected to have to make tough decisions for years to come, even the very discussion has the potential to hamper our economic recovery of our province. The fact is, prior to the pandemic, our airports and air service were growing and sustainable and there’s no reason to think they won’t be again on the other side of COVID-19. The air industry is complex, and the solutions to its challenges are just as complex, however the market should determine provincial airport options, not government.
New Brunswick has three economic hubs that all rely upon convenient air service. Our chamber members, corporate travelers, citizens and tourists who fly in and out of these airports demand flexible options to be able to conduct their business or other travel requirements. We must ensure these options exist when demand returns, restrictions lifted, and people are comfortable with flying again.
Inbound business travelers want to fly as close as possible to their destination of choice. Investment in our province depends on this. Adding a 2–3-hour drive after an inbound flight makes our province seem remote, disconnected and not investment friendly.
From business travelers and military, to cargo and search and rescue to tourism and private charters, the airports in this province serve many needs. In fact, over the last year while business and tourism travel has been down, cargo volumes have gone up. Once the worst of the pandemic is behind us, business and tourism travel will rebound and confirm the need for airports in all the urban centres.
We all know that the travel industry has been forced to change drastically but we can look forward to airports that are stronger and safer. Imagine shorter lines, more efficient checkpoints and innovative touchless technology.
Before the pandemic, airports in New Brunswick were thriving with passenger travel on the rise. While it will take time to rebuild the global travel industry, it will rebound.
Airports are our transportation hubs, however, they are also economic drivers – they create jobs, support surrounding industries and significantly increase the local tax base and revenue to government. The combined economic impact of our airports during normal operations is $765-million, and they support thousands of direct and indirect jobs in our province. All three airports were profitable pre-pandemic, and there is every reason to believe this will be the case once the pandemic is over.
Airports are significant assets, and we should be looking at their long-term benefit and impact on our communities and province, not at the temporary impacts of a once-in-a-century crisis. Once travel rebounds, which it will, we need to ensure our business travelers have the same travel options…not fewer.