By Shermain Bique-Charles
Air Canada’s latest extension to its suspension of flights to Antigua has dismayed Tourism Minister Charles “Max” Fernandez, who said the government had been anxiously awaiting the carrier’s return.
The airline announced on Monday that it was suspending flights to the twin island nation and three other Caribbean islands until October 29.
Earlier this year, Air Canada had said it was temporarily suspending flights as of January 31 until April 30, but now it has further postponed its return date.
The move is a blow for the country’s economic mainstay as Canada has long been one of Antigua and Barbuda’s principle tourism source markets.
Fernandez said he was hoping Air Canada would have been back already.
“We were hoping they would be back online early. They have been with us for over 60 years and we consider them an important stakeholder in the whole aspect of the tourism product for us,” Fernandez told reporters following the news on Monday.
He said however that healthy arrivals from the UK had helped fill some of the void.
“We have been working really hard, even without Air Canada. We have set a record in arrivals last October and November in terms of passenger arrivals from the UK,” Fernandez said.
And he expressed hope that talks with another Canadian airline would prove fruitful.
“We expect to have another carrier out of Canada coming on stream towards the end of the year, so we are hoping that will pick up some of the slack,” Fernandez continued.
He pledged that Antigua and Barbuda would not sit idly by and wait for Air Canada to return in the meantime.
“We are sorry to see them push back [the resumption date] but we are not waiting; we are pushing to see how we can fill that void,” Fernandez added.
Air Canada operated a weekly flight to Antigua prior to the pandemic with occasional increases during peak season.