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An aerial view of the Saint John Airport. Image: Submitted/Saint John Airport

More flights needed to boost passenger numbers: YSJ president

By Brad Perry May 10, 2024 | 5:40 AM

Passenger traffic continues to grow at the Saint John Airport (YSJ) but remains below pre-pandemic levels.

About 175,000 passengers travelled through the airport in 2023, an increase of 18 per cent year over year.

However, the airport’s president and CEO said that is still only about 70 per cent of what they saw before COVID-19.

“Our big problem isn’t passengers, our problem is aircraft. I’m confident that if we had two or three more rotations a day with Air Canada, we’d fill them,” Sandy Ross said in an interview.

Air Canada currently offers two daily rotations to Toronto and one to Montreal from Saint John and Ross said those flights have been “very full.”

The president and CEO said the airline has committed to almost 215,000 seats flown into YSJ for 2024, an 18 per cent increase.

“We know lots of Saint John passengers are travelling to Moncton in order to be able to catch flights. The total numbers would be coming back faster if the flights were here, but we think a little competition in the market might just spur a little bit more interest and activity,” said Ross.

PASCAN Aviation announced this week that it will launch a regional air service between Bathurst, Saint John, and Halifax starting in September.

Flair Airlines’ summer route to Toronto has also returned, offering three rotations per week. A planned fourth weekly rotation had to be scrapped due to a cutback on landings at Pearson Airport, according to a YSJ spokesperson.

Ross said the airline is also coming off a successful winter route between Saint John and Orlando with one rotation per week. He added the airport is in discussions with Flair about both the Toronto and Orlando routes.

Meanwhile, the airport ended the year with nearly $6.4 million in revenue, which was about $288,000 lower than expected. Officials said that was due to passenger numbers being seven per cent lower than expected.

Overall expenses for the 2023 fiscal year were on plan at just under $4.9 million.