Yarmouth passenger air service returned to the air Monday (Updated with photos 3:25 p.m. Monday)

Yarmouth airport has been without regular air service since 2003

Vanguard Info editor@thevanguard.ca
Published on February 9, 2009

By Michael Gorman and Tina Comeau



Yarmouth returned to regular scheduled air service Monday, Feb. 9 as Starlink Airlines took off for its first flight from Yarmouth to Halifax.

The first flight departed from Yarmouth at 7:30 a.m. this morning. The flight to Halifax takes about 44 minutes. There were 17 passengers on the first flight, mostly government and municipal politicians and businesspeople. Yarmouth MLA Richard Hurlburt, among those who worked hard for the return of air service to the Yarmouth airport, was among those on the flight.

The Yarmouth airport has been without regular scheduled air service since Nov. 28, 2003 when Sou’West Air ended its service.

It was the second time in one calendar year that Yarmouth lost air service. In January 2003 Air Canada’s Jazz stopped servicing the area. The Sou’West Air service between Yarmouth and Halifax had started a few weeks after that.

Starlink Airlines, a Quebec-based company, intends to offer two daily return flights bwteen Yarmouth and Halifax and Yarmouth and Portland, however as it launches the new service the Yarmouth to Portland leg of the service has hit a temporary snag.

Starlink is still waiting on a licence from the American Department of Transportation to allow them to offer the twice-daily service between Yarmouth and Portland, Maine. According to the guidelines of the application process, other carriers have a time period to file comments or concerns about the new service. That is what’s creating the delay.

Daniel Paquet of Starlink said the delay in receiving the licence means they have been unable, to this point, to sell tickets or even advertise the Portland link. Paquet had said last week that although they were working to shorten the wait, it could be Feb. 23 before they are able to begin the Portland run. On Monday, however, expectations had changed and it’s hoped things will fall into place within a week or so.

There is also a challenge of addressing the potential cost of overtime for Canadian Border Services agents to staff the airport during after-hours flights from the U.S. That added expense, which could be as high as $100,000, could impact ticket prices.

Challenges aside, Paquet said the company is pleased with the response they’ve received to this point for the service. He said interest is about equal between the two routes. Starlink has hired someone to promote the link in all three of the markets serviced markets. Paquet said that while the sales will need to pick up, they expected things to start slow. “We didn’t have a long time prior to the launch to sell,” he said, adding that while sales for February are weak due to the short notice of the service availability, they are encouraged by what they are seeing for the month of March. Paquet said they are receiving calls from businesses and government departments inquiring about the purchase of groups of tickets, something that must happen to make the service viable, he said. “We have a lot of interest, a lot of phone calls,” he said. “It has to be fed, it has to be nourished, and we’re just starting that now.”

The airline is using an 18 seat Jetstream 31 aircraft, one of the most popular commuter aircraft in the industry. The aircraft will be based in Yarmouth.

Paquet said the company is on a three-month evaluation period for their set up and launch. At the end of those three months they will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the service and adjust accordingly. The company signed a one-year contract with the Yarmouth International Airport Corporation and Paquet said he is optimistic the service will catch on. “I really think we’re going to make a success out of that there,” he said. “We will adjust to the market response.”

Paquet said it would take about a 75 per cent load factor for the company to deem the operation a success. “If we would be able to get to that level in a matter of three or four months, we would be very happy. That would be a very, very fast result.”

He noted the willingness of all the partners involved to sell the public on the merits of using the service but added that ultimately it is the “people’s route”.

Martin Pink, chair of the airport corporation, said meetings are scheduled with community partners such as the Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and government offices to promote the service and its use.

Meanwhile, although commercial air service between Yarmouth is Portland is grounded for now, a test flight carrying the Mayor of Portland and several Maine dignitaries and business leaders will arrive at the Yarmouth Airport at 12:45 a.m. from Portland today (Feb.9). Their arrival will be followed by a brief press conference and welcome reception. A Yarmouth Vanguard reporter will be traveling on the test flight.