Air Canada flights set to return later this year

FILE PHOTO: An Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 from San Francisco approaches for landing at Toronto Pearson International Airport over a parked Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

Air Canada has confirmed plans to return to the country after several months of no service, tourism officials have told Observer.

The carrier has long provided key links between Antigua and Barbuda and its third biggest tourism source market.

Earlier this year, the airline announced it was temporarily suspending flights as of January 31 until April 30. But in April, the company revealed a further suspension to the twin island nation and three other Caribbean islands until October 29.

The move was deemed a blow for the country’s economic mainstay as Antigua and Barbuda battled to recover financially from the Covid pandemic. 

Tourism Minister Charles ‘Max’ Fernandez told Observer this week that airline officials have reached out to his ministry, indicating their decision to return in the fourth quarter of this year.

“That is something that we are really looking forward to. Air Canada has been a staple of the tourism industry here in Antigua and Barbuda coming out of Canada, and we are really looking forward to welcoming them back,” Fernandez said.

“Canada itself had so many lockdowns and protocols and so on that I am not sure how much of an effect it would have had,” he continued.

“Clearly though … although there are two other airlines that came into play, I think we were still off by 30-40 percent from our 2019 or pre-pandemic levels and that would have to be attributed to the fact that Air Canada, which is the best known and most frequent and most trusted in terms of persons within Antigua and Barbuda flying out and family members returning back, I think that has affected us definitely,” Fernandez said.

Air Canada operated a weekly flight to Antigua prior to the pandemic with occasional increases during peak season.

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