By Shermain Bique-Charles
Following a grand return to the VC Bird International Airport on October 3, 2020, Air Canada has announced the suspension of flights to Antigua and Barbuda as well as several other destinations — a move that the tourism minister said could further set back the already struggling sector.
In response to ongoing Covid-19 concerns, Air Canada said over the weekend that it was temporarily suspending flights to Mexican and Caribbean destinations for 90 days, as of January 31.
The decision, taken in collaboration with the Government of Canada, is designed to achieve an orderly reduction in service and minimise customer impact, according to the airline.
“I think that Canada has been one of those countries that has been exceptionally cautions. They can do more in terms of locking down because they have other means of income, but the rest of us are not as fortunate and are more dependent on tourism,” Charles Max Fernandez told Observer.
Flights, according to the airline, will be suspended from January 31, 2021 through April 30, 2021.
“I think the Omicron variant is what created the concern for them. I believe that by saying the 30th of January they want to be sure that there is no full-fledged increase to create further problems for them, otherwise they would have said within seven days,” Fernandez said.
Hesitancy among travellers, according to Fernandez, is also creating a fall-off in travelling, based on Covid measures.
“People are concerned; ‘when I travel and get to my destination, would I have to spend 14 days in isolation or quarantine?’ That also has an impact on people travelling out of the country. It is not us alone. It hits all of us,” he added
Cayo Coco, Cancun, Liberia, Montego Bay, Punta Cana, Varadero, Puerto Vallarta, Aruba, Barbados, Kingston, Mexico City, Nassau, Providenciales, San Jose, and Panama are also expected to be affected by the latest decision taken by the Canadian airline.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to advise against travel to Antigua and Barbuda, regardless of the downward trajectory of Covid-19 cases, as well as the high vaccination rate, the low death rate and hospitalisations, and the protocols that have been put into place by the government.
Fernandez said as long as the vaccination rates increase, the CDC’s rating will eventually change.