The Opposition New Democrats are calling for action from the Sask. Party government after the recent cancellations of air service to and from the province.
The NDP announced that Opposition leader Carla Beck had written a letter to Premier Scott Moe, to “ask for action to facilitate solutions to the continued air travel fiasco.”
The correspondence comes just days after Sunwing announced the cancellation of almost its entire winter schedule out of Regina, as well as half of its scheduled flights from Saskatoon. The flights impacted include direct service from Saskatoon and Regina to Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. This followed the previous news of Sunwing cancelling service to Saskatchewan through Feb. 3.
Beck noted in her letter to the premier that thousands were impacted by the decision including prospective newlyweds and travel agents, but also pointed out there have been other cuts by other airlines in recent years.
“The Sunwing debacle is just the most recent in a troubling trend in air travel in Saskatchewan. Air Canada recently cut all connections to Calgary. Economic activities that relies on regular, reliable air service – music, festivals, conferences, research and technology – is in jeopardy.
“I ask that in response to this letter, you outline how you have worked, and will work with airlines, municipalities, airport authorities, impacted industries, economic organizations, and relevant federal leaders to get a better deal for Saskatchewan.”
The NDP's news release also pointed to a series of other airline cancellations and hits to Saskatchewan’s major airports, including United cancelling direct flights to Chicago in 2014 and Denver in 2015, Delta cancelling direct flights to Minneapolis in 2015 and Transport Canada removing international status from the Regina and Saskatoon airports in 2021.
The release also pointed to two major business conventions pulling out of Saskatchewan in 2023 due to a lack of access.
Infrastructure Critic Trent Wotherspoon was quoted in the news release as saying the Sunwing cancellation resulted in “chaos and frustration for thousands of Saskatchewan people.”
“Air travel is essential to our economic well-being. The loss of needed flight routes and carriers is a loss for people and our economy. It’s past time that this premier stand up for us on this front and find solutions,” said Wotherspoon in a statement.
“For many people, the Sunwing situation has ruined their first vacation in years. With so many on tight budgets, any other spending is on hold until they get that refund,” said Beck in a statement. “And frankly, that could take weeks if not months.”
Beck also stated concerns that Premier Moe only went to bat for people when it suited his political agenda.
“If Scott Moe really wants to stand up for Saskatchewan, he’d get airlines, mayors, industry, economic organizations, airport authorities and the federal government in a room and hash out a fix, yet he’s been largely silent. We’re losing critical economic lifelines that connect Saskatchewan to the rest of the world,” she said.
When Sunwing announced their first round of service reductions to Saskatchewan in December, Premier Moe issued a statement calling the move a “very irresponsible decision.”
“While airlines and air travel are regulated by the federal government, Saskatchewan’s Transportation Minister Jeremy Cockrill has been in contact with Sunwing and with federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra asking for a detailed plan of how and when passengers who travelled from Saskatchewan will get back, which is the immediate priority.”
In response to the airline news this week and the latest calls from the NDP, Minister of Trade and Export Development Jeremy Harrison has issued the following statement:
“We are very disappointed by the cancellation of Sunwing flights to Saskatchewan as this has direct and severe impacts on thousands of passengers. We recognize how important airline travel is to the province’s economy and the quality of life for the people of our province. As this is 100 per cent a federal regulatory responsibility, we expect the federal government to hold carriers accountable and for Sunwing to treat customers fairly.”
Earlier this week, WestJet announced they would fill the void left by Air Canada by adding two daily direct flights to Calgary from Regina. The low-cost airline Flair also recently announced direct flights to Calgary from Saskatoon.