THE WESTERN STAR
STEPHENVILLE, N.L. — Mayor Tom Rose called Wednesday — the day PAL Airlines officials notified the town it was pulling out of Stephenville airport in mid-January, a black day.
Rose levelled criticism at the airline company, saying PAL ignored the town and the airport authority.
He also directed his disapproval at the airport board of directors and management team, saying he has lost confidence in them.
Rose said Stephenville airport is a critical piece of infrastructure for aviation safety, with Canada recently investing $1.5 million into a state-of-the-art Instrument Landing System to support the entire aviation network in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Steve Dinn, vice-president of business development for PAL Airlines, confirmed it would be eliminating Flight 913 that leaves Stephenville, heading to Deer Lake and then to St. John’s.
“Business was rapidly declining in Stephenville for the last five years. The numbers were low, and many were using Deer Lake as their main hub.”
He said the company tried different approaches to find a working solution but couldn’t find a viable and sustainable market.
“We worked with the Stephenville airport corporation on several different initiatives over the years,” Dinn said.
Joe Sheen, board chair of the Stephenville Airport Corporation, said in a prepared release, airlines make decisions based on profitability and are ultimately in control.
He said his volunteer board respects that concept but yesterday’s announcement by Winnipeg-based PAL — “now a public traded company” —came as a surprise.
Sheen said it comes at a time when Stephenville Airport Authority had engaged with PAL’s new president on a business case shared with another airport with similar goals. The business case would realize enhanced service to St. John’s, Labrador, a new route to Atlantic Canada, giving global connectivity.
The proposal/ business case to PAL included a market assessment demonstrating confidence for more direct and frequent services for customers of Western Newfoundland and Labrador. It demonstrated how PAL would capture a higher load factor and help achieve objectives for growth.
“We continue to have dialogue with PAL and are encouraged they are giving our business case serious consideration. Until we receive a decision on our proposal, I would like to defer any further comments,” he said.
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Mayor Tom Rose levels criticism at PAL and airport corporation