Air Canada grounding direct flight between Edmonton and London for nearly three months

EDMONTON – Those hoping to catch a direct plane from Edmonton to London early next year will now need to take a connecting flight.

Air Canada is dropping its direct flights between the two cities for some of the winter months.

A spokesperson for the company has sent Global News the following statement:

“Despite ongoing promotional initiatives over the past six years, the Edmonton-London route has always been a challenge to be profitable during these months. As a result, Air Canada has taken a commercial decision to not operate the Edmonton-London flights between January 8 – March 28, 2014. The non-stop flights re-start March 29 with 5 weekly flights ramping up to daily on May 1 for the summer season.”

Air Canada says customers booked on flights to London between Jan 8-Mar 28, 2014 “will be re-accommodated over another city.  Customers who have booked through a Travel Agent should contact their Travel Agency for their new flight. ”

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Traveller Junaid Aleker was at EIA Wednesday night, checking in for the 10:25 p.m. flight from Edmonton to London. He says as an international airline, Air Canada should be providing more direct international flights.

“That’s a great pity. I usually catch flights from Edmonton to London. I think it’s a very convenient flight. And then from London I take (another flight) to Africa or to India,” he explained. “I will probably have to work my way around travelling in winter, so I guess I’ll see how that goes.”

Heather Hamilton, director of communications and marketing at EIA, says the route is popular and one that will be missed over the winter months.

“It is not something that we have anticipated,” she said. “It is disappointing to have that winter service withdrawn for that three month period.”

In November of 2006, Air Canada launched its inaugural flight across the pond to much fanfare. It was initially announced as a three-day-a-week flight, but was ramped up to a daily flight six months later.

Hamilton adds that the direct flight is a route that Edmonton’s business community asked for and has come to rely on. So not surprisingly, news of the grounded flights came as a disappointment to the city’s business leaders.

“It’s really disappointing that they quit for three months, pulled out of the market, and then expect to come back in as a great carrier,” said Brad Ferguson, president and CEO of the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation.

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Ferguson believes the direct route is crucial for Edmonton’s booming economy.

“What we require in this city, which is one of the fastest growing jurisdictions in Canada let alone North America, we need access and quick access to lots of foreign markets,” he explained. “If they don’t see it as a healthy market going forward, then I think they’re short-sighted in terms of what they’re doing.

“This is something that we’ve invested in significantly, and this community has invested in for the last six years. And to just have someone come up, pull the rug out from under us and change the platform changes how we do business,” he added. “We need consistency for our business community and consistency for foreign travellers wanting to come here.”

When the flight was first announced back in 2006, the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) had the fastest growing passenger volume in Canada. This year, Calgary’s airport has been the fastest growing in Canada, according to the Calgary Airport Authority. It’s also one of only three airports in Canada providing year-round scheduled service to both Europe and Asia.

Air Canada’s announcement that it will be temporarily dropping the Edmonton-London route coincides with news that the company will be increasing capacity on Calgary’s direct flights to London and Frankfurt as of next summer.

The announcement also comes just a month after it was revealed that a non-stop Icelandair flight between Edmonton and Reykjavik, Iceland is being added in March. The flight has been touted as a way to offer Albertans better access to many destinations in Europe.

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There are no other carriers that provide direct service from EIA to London.

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