Thunder Bay, Ont. — The Thunder Bay International Airport passenger capacity numbers during this March break appear encouraging and could indicate what the airport will see through the year.
Airport manager Ed Schmidtke says they will see some of the best connectivity options Thunder Bay has had in recent memory.
“Westjet’s expansion of service into Western Canada from Thunder Bay will significantly improve connectivity,” he said. “Instead of one flight to Winnipeg, we have two a day to Winnipeg. And instead of zero flights to Calgary, we have seasonal service to Calgary three times a week. These are significant votes of confidence by WestJet in the local market to fill seats to Western Canada.”
Schmidtke said that Westjet has been clear with their strategic plan since the summer of 2022 that they were pulling out of Eastern Canada.
“But while doing that, they have given a very strong vote of confidence to our local market to fill seats to Western Canada,” he said.
Schmidtke noted that Air Canada’s flight schedule is “dramatically better” as well. By May, there will be four daily flights to Toronto and by June there will be five.
Amid an international shortage of labour in the airline industry, Schmidtke says there has not been any labour shortages that have contributed to flight delays out of Thunder Bay.
“Airports are not immune and there are certainly want ads everywhere . . . everybody’s looking for people,” he said. “We wouldn’t suggest anything to the contrary, but there is not a shortage that is contributing to point delays.”
Currently, Air Canada, WestJet, Porter, Flair, Bearskin, Northstar and Wasaya airlines all offer daily service.
“We’re seeing some good growth factors,” Schmidtke says. “The airplanes that are here are largely full but we have seen a reduced winter schedule, which sees our total numbers behind where we’d like them to be.”
He added that they’re encouraged by this March capacity increase and what it means for the late spring and summer.
“We’ll have summer service direct non-stop to Calgary. WestJet and Porter are going to be offering direct non-stop to Ottawa on a twice-daily basis. We have three airlines going into the Toronto market and we have two daily Westjet flights to Winnipeg,” he said.
“And with more capacity coming in the (coming months), if this demand continues, we’ll be seeing very good numbers in the summer.”