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'It's going to be a hit for us for sure': Air Canada’s cancelled flights to Saskatoon costs local businesses


The cancellation of Air Canada flights between Saskatchewan’s two largest cities and Calgary in December has meant dollars lost for businesses in Saskatoon.

Discover Saskatoon says two major business events scheduled to be held in the Bridge City have already been cancelled because of a lack of connectivity.

“Just those two pieces of business alone were about $300,000 worth of loss, economic impact into the community. There's definitely a broader economic impact that we're seeing beyond that,” said executive director Steph Clovechok.

She says the perception of Saskatoon being difficult to access could also put events like the Junos, which was cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic, in jeopardy.

“We've got a couple of pieces of business in the pipeline that are equally significant to events like the Junos that will showcase our culture, music and our hosting capacity, and absolutely that's always going to be a conversation,” said Clovechok.

TCU Place sales manager Joan Fior says rather than connecting flights from Calgary, people are having to fly to Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal to get to Saskatoon.

She says costing people more time and money to get to the city makes it more difficult for the convention centre, which is booking events as far into the future as five years.

“It's a really important segment for our business,” said Fior.

“We typically do anywhere from eight to 10 large national conventions a year and one to two international. So, if we don't have that business, yeah, it's going to be a hit for us for sure.”

Chamber of Commerce CEO Jason Aebig says there’s a spin-off of people not making their way to Saskatoon for meetings.

“The ripple effect of that, from spending with our taxis and our local shops and restaurants and pubs or tourist attractions, not to mention the lost sales tax and wages that spin-off spending pays for in our hospitality sector,” he said.

“[You] start to appreciate the magnitude of a decision like this that literally ripples across a local economy.”

Even if businesses aren’t feeling the effects presently, Aebig says Saskatoon restaurants likely will in the long term.

“In the absence of a steady flow of convention or conference business, they will see the impact on their bottom lines at the end of the year,” he said.

Dean of the University of Saskatchewan’s Edwards School of business Keith Willoughby says there’s a chance hotels, like the Holiday Inn Express & Suites and Staybridge Suites built on the U of S campus, could also be affected.

“I was chatting with one of my fellow deans and he mentioned they brought in a guest speaker for one of their large seminars, and the guest speaker commented, coming in from Eastern Canada how difficult it was for him to get here,” he said.

“That's small. That's just one incident, but I think it points to a larger dilemma with the travellers here, that if the capacity is not there it's going to begin to have that immediate impact.”

An Air Canada statement said Saskatoon and the province continue to have access to the airline’s vast domestic, US and international network within existing routes.

“There is no market out of Calgary that is not well-served from our Vancouver and Toronto hubs,” the statement said.

“Additionally this summer, Air Canada’s non-stop flights between SK and Montreal will add another option for travel and global connectivity.”

Willoughby says in the meantime, other airlines like WestJet could lessen the financial blow to businesses.

“It's talked about increasing flights up to maybe as many as nine per day, and if they can increase their capacity, that could fill the void that was left when Air Canada departed,” he said.

“Until that happens, we're in a bit of uncertain territory.” Top Stories

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