Starlink Aviation has announced that as of Tuesday, Dec. 1, it will suspend all air service between Yarmouth, Halifax and Portland because the airline no longer has the funding to keep the air service flying out of the Yarmouth airport in the air.
A $2-million air service provincial subsidy fund that had been put in place to help Starlink build its air service was depleted on Wednesday and the company says last minute attempts on its part to try and secure short-term government funding were not successful.
The last flights coming into the Yarmouth airport will be on Monday. Starlink says those flights are both full. The last flight to come in from Halifax will bring in the Halifax Rainmen pro basketball team which is coming to Yarmouth for a training camp.
Starlink employed 10 people at its Yarmouth operation. It informed the employees of the decision to suspend service before announcing it publicly. It is in the process of contacting customers that have reservations with the airline. The company says it wants to make sure that within three-to-five business days after the company’s last flight anyone with a reservation will receive a full refund.
The company will also be making contact with its corporate account holders to thank them for their support and to see that they too are refunded.
Starlink Aviation launched its service in February amid much fanfare after years of not having regular scheduled passenger air service in Yarmouth.
But knowing the history of other airline services that have flown, and failed, at the airport, the Quebec-based company said such a service could not soar to heights overnight. Indeed, it would take years to build and sustain a service, or at least longer than nine months.
For that reason an Air Service Development Fund was established. The idea of the fund was in months that Starlink lost money it could take from the fund so it would reach a break-even point. In any month that it made money, it would pay back into the fund. But the fund saw more money coming out than going in.
Earlier this month Yarmouth town councilor Martin Pink, chairman of the Yarmouth Airport Corporation, estimated that the fund that had started out at $2 million would run out some time in early January.
Starlink had adjusted its schedule to help slow the burn rate of the fund.
Late Monday, Nov. 23, Starlink says it received notification from the executive director of Yarmouth International Airport stating that the Air Service Fund will be depleted as of November 25, 2009. “This is a challenging time for everyone involved,” said Brenda Libby, Regional Sales Manager for Starlink. “We believe in this service and we’re honoured to be part of the community but we need continued support to give us time to establish a self supporting service.” “When we began service there was no current data, however, after 9 months of flying we now have the data needed to make this a success… but it will take two to three years to achieve that success.”
When the service was launched, it was making two daily return trips to Halifax and Portland.
Starlink management says it is hopeful that a funding solution can be found and service can be reinstated. “The citizens of South West Nova are passionate and committed to progress and I believe that all levels of government are equally committed to the region. The timing is unfortunate but I believe the political will exists to make this work. It is my hope that Starlink will be permitted to continue what we’ve started,” said Starlink’s president Glen Lynch.