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EIA relaunches direct flight to Amsterdam, travel expert unsure of success amid COVID-19

The Edmonton International Airport on July 27, 2015.
The Edmonton International Airport on July 27, 2015. Vinesh Pratap, Global News

Five months after suspending international travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Edmonton International Airport is once again offering a direct flight to Europe.

Starting Oct. 29, travellers can fly non-stop from Edmonton to Amsterdam with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

We haven’t had a lot of good news over the last several months,” EIA vice president of operations Steve Maybee told 630 CHED Afternoons with J’lyn Nye on Tuesday.

“Getting KLM back to return service is fantastic.

Read more: Four-point COVID-19 recovery plan identified for Edmonton International Airport

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Right now, international flights can only land at four Canadian airports — Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. So EIA and KLM worked together to develop what they’re calling a circle route.

When returning from Amsterdam, the flight will land in Calgary and all passengers will get off and clear Canadian customs and a health screening before those passengers continuing to Edmonton will get back on the plane — along with passengers departing Calgary — and return to Edmonton.

It allows us to return to international service, which is so important to the Edmonton and to the region,” Maybee said.

The flight will be offered twice weekly, on Thursdays and Saturdays, but Claire Newell, president of Travel Best Bets, isn’t sure the route will see success.

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New study on International Travelers Self-Quarantine from Toronto’s Pearson airport

When she heard KLM was relaunching the service, she said her first thought was it was a “bold” move, given the circumstances.

The interesting thing about that start date is that it’s going into the low season for Europe,” she said. “So I really do hope that that sticks.

“But the airlines, even just domestically, if there isn’t enough demand, they are cancelling flights and consolidating flights.”

Read more: Edmonton International Airport lays off 40% of workers as passenger traffic drops by 95%

Newell said the launch date for this service is surprising because the Europe season for travel agents usually ends at the beginning of November. After that, until the beginning of April, it’s known as “sun season.”

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So for them to be starting at the end of October, it’s an unusual time, but they must feel that there is some demand for that.”

Newell said, while Amsterdam is an “incredibly popular” destination over the typical Europe season, travel agents still aren’t seeing demand for international travel in 2020, but are starting to see some interest for that type of travel in 2021.

Click to play video 'How COVID-19 travel restrictions are affecting Edmonton International Airport' How COVID-19 travel restrictions are affecting Edmonton International Airport
How COVID-19 travel restrictions are affecting Edmonton International Airport

Unfortunately, she doesn’t see this route being a success right now.

At this stage of the game, Canada’s borders are not open. When you you can’t come to Canada unless you are a resident, you have to have immediate family, you have to be an international student, or essential worker. There’s a very small list of exemptions.

“So it’s going to be very tough — very, very tough — for them to do well on this route, especially given the time period that they’re launching. I do hope the best for them, but I do worry about the success of that route.”

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Read more: Canadian airlines cancel hundreds of flights as hopes fade for spike in demand

When the route relaunches it will not only be carrying passengers; but also cargo.

“This aircraft does carry a fair bit of cargo in the belly and that’s important,” Maybee said. “You think about all the protective gear and all that medical equipment going back and forth around the world, you need aircraft to do that.

“It’s an important route to get established again and allow that.”

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One of world’s largest cargo planes lands at Edmonton International Airport

As of publishing, the Netherlands has no travel restrictions for Canadians, though non-essential travel outside of Canada is not recommended by the government of Canada.

According to EIA, Transport Canada, Canada Border Services Agency, Public Health Agency of Canada and Alberta Health Services were all contacted and provided guidance and approval of the relaunching of the route.

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