Antigua still optimistic despite Air Canada flight suspension

The Antigua and Barbuda government says it remains optimistic that Air Canada will reverse its decision to suspend flights to the island as of January 31 this year as the country battles with the latest surge in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in recent weeks.

Tourism Minister Charles “Max” Fernandez, speaking on Observer Radio on Monday, said Canada has been one of those countries “that has been exceptionally cautious.

“Now they probably can do more in terms of locking down because of course they have other means of income. The rest of us are not as fortunate and dependent on the tourism. But I think the Omicron variant is what has created the concerns for them.

“I believe that by saying the 30th of January they want to be sure that there is no full fledge increase to create further problems for them,” Fernandez said.

In a statement, Tameka Wharton, the Senior Sales and Marketing Manager (Canada Region) of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, said that Canadian government has advised “Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel, has made it challenging for the airline to maintain its previously announced flight schedule leading to the suspension.

“The airline will be working on cancelling each passenger’s file in order of departure dates over the next month and asked for our co-operation and patience.

“Air Canada has expressed their appreciation for our understanding during these difficult times which are impacting the entire travel sector. They have shared their confidence that the travel industry will continue to be resilient and by working together, we can overcome this most recent setback,” the statement noted.

“We at the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority wish to thank you for your support as we look forward to the future with optimism,” it added. The airline had only resumed its services to Antigua and Barbuda on October 3 last year.

Last month Bermuda announced that the airline was suspending services from January 9 this year.

“Air Canada continues to evaluate and adjust its route network as required in response to the trajectory of the pandemic, government-imposed travel restrictions and quarantines, and regulatory requirements,” the spokesman said. The airline gave no date for resuming the service.

Fernandez also told radio listeners that health authorities here were working with the cruise line industry following a statement by the US-based Centres for Disease Control (CDC) that people should avoid traveling on cruise ships regardless of their vaccination status, as daily COVID-19 cases in the country climb to record highs due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

“The cruise industry is doing the best it can and they are continuously upgrading. We are in touch with them,” he said on how “we can work together” because at the end of the day it is a partnership

“None of us want any kind of disruption in any serious way (and) in the same time we don’t want any major health risk for our people. So it is a balancing act, it is a risk that we have to find a way to manage bearing in mind so many lives depend on it…basically to survive,” he added.

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