Mayor Tom Rose called Wednesday a black day for Stephenville.
That was the day PAL Airlines officials came to town to notify they are pulling their business out of Stephenville Airport in January.
Rose lambasted the airline company, saying PAL ignored the town and the airport's authority.
Rose also levelled criticism at the board of directors and management team at the airport, saying he has lost confidence in them.
He 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.
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Steve Dinn, vice-president of business development for PAL Airlines, confirmed they would be taking off the Flight 913 that leaves Stephenville, goes to Deer Lake, then to St. John’s.
“Business was rapidly declining in Stephenville for the last five years," said Dinn. "The numbers were low and many were using Deer Lake as their main hub.”
He said the company tried different things and held off and tried to find a solution to work but couldn’t find the market in a viable and sustainable way.
“We worked with the Stephenville airport corporation on several different initiatives over the years,” Dinn said.
It’s tough, he added, but said they tried to stimulate the market and it came down to not being viable to continue.
In a prepared statement, Joe Sheen, board chair of the Stephenville Airport Corporation, said airlines make decisions based on profitability and are ultimately in control. He said his volunteer board respects that concept, but Wednesday’s announcement by PAL, now a public traded company based out of Winnipeg, came as a surprise.
Sheen said it came at a time when the Stephenville Airport Authority had engaged with PAL’s new president on a business case shared with another airport with similar goals. The plan would have realized an enhanced service to St. John’s, Labrador and a new route to Atlantic Canada, giving global connectivity.
He said the proposal to PAL included a market assessment demonstrating confidence for more direct and frequent services for customers of western Newfoundland and Labrador.
“We continue to have dialogue with PAL and are encouraged they are giving our business case serious consideration," Sheen said in the statement. "Until we receive a decision on our proposal, I would like to defer any further comments,."