It just may signal a comeback for London International Airport and the travel industry.
Air Canada and WestJet are both bringing some flights back to the London airport in June and July, as demand for travel slowly grows, airport chief executive Mike Seabrook said.
Air Canada will double its two daily London-Toronto flights to four in early July.
WestJet, which had suspended its service, will bring back four flights a day to Toronto and four flights a week to Calgary in the third week of June.
“They are carefully watching and confidence is growing,” Seabrook said. “They are watching demand as it picks up and they are planning. It is a good sign.”
The news comes as Ontario announced an easing of the lockdown in three phases to begin in mid-June, as COVID-19 vaccination rates increase and the number of infections decline.
“It depends on the status of the pandemic and if we avoid a fourth wave. We need all these things to co-operate,” Seabrook said.
Air Canada said it is watching pandemic figures and the travel sector closely, and it is time to make the move.
“This is reflective of our belief that with the pandemic receding there will be an increase in demand for travel. However, given the unpredictability of the pandemic, we will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments accordingly,” the airline’s Peter Fitzpatrick said in a release.
But restoring these flights won’t bring the airport “even close” to the service it offered before the pandemic, Seabrook said. The changes will bring it up from 10 per cent of pre-pandemic service to about 40 per cent, he estimated.
Travellers also face a “patchwork” of inter-provincial travel rules, Seabrook said. While international travel is federal jurisdiction, every province sets its own travel guidelines, so visitors may have to quarantine in one province, but not another.
“We have been in this (pandemic) for 15 months and about 50 per cent of the population has had a vaccination, things are easing,” Seabrook said. “It will increase confidence in travel and there is pent-up demand. We are cautiously optimistic.”
The airport also has made a pitch to discount carrier Porter Airlines to bring its service to London, he said. “We have ongoing discussions with every carrier and Porter is no exception. We have talked,” and that conversation is ongoing.
Porter is changing its business strategy, from flying into Toronto from smaller cities, to offering point-to-point service, and that’s where London may come in, Seabrook said.
“We have given them analysis of how they can be in our market. London is a strong point-to-point destination. London may fit with that. We would love to have Porter as part of our service.”
In April, vacation carrier Sunwing announced it would resume flights between London and three sunny holiday destinations — Punta Cana, Veradero and Cancun — in December.