Thousands of Irish-Canadians campaign for reinstatement of cancelled direct flight from Newfoundland

Some 2,000 people from Ireland and Canada are campaigning for the reinstatement of a direct flight from Newfoundland to Dublin, after news of its cancellation spread last month.

The WestJet flight from St John’s to Dublin Airport was the only direct flight from the Newfoundland and Labrador area to Dublin campaign members claim, but WestJet confirmed that the seasonal flight will not be returning next summer.

Kieran Cronin, from the centre for Newfoundland and Labrador Studies at Waterford Institute of Technology, was sparked to share an open letter to WestJet after seeing the “disappointment” among both Irish and Canadian people.

A Facebook group called Newfoundland Ireland Direct Connection was set up for campaigners to connect online, boasting over 2,000 members within eight days of being created.

“The reason I wrote the letter was because the statement from WestJet struck a chord with me,” Kieran told Independent.ie.

“I had returned on the last flight of the season on October 26, and I was on four flights on the route with WestJet this year and each one was full. It’s not like there were any empty seats”.

According to WestJet, the service wasn’t “performing to expectation” and was discontinued as a result.

“WestJet can confirm that St. John’s non-stop service to Dublin will not be returning in summer 2019. We understand this is disappointing news for the community and Newfoundland and Labrador overall and we are sorry we are unable to continue this flying in 2019,” a spokesperson for WestJet told Independent.ie.

“This decision was not taken lightly, however, the route was not performing to expectation and as result, the choice was made to discontinue the service.”

However, Mr Cronin said that from his own research using CSO statistics, the flight, which ran from June to October every year since 2014, was almost at capacity in 2017.

“Figures for last year 2017 show that 90pc of seats were full in both directions,” he said.

The WestJet spokesperson said they are “committed to growing aviation in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador” and that they have plans for alternative services to offer their customers “convenient connectivity”. 

“We remain committed to growing aviation in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and recently added non-stop service between St. John’s and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the spring of 2019. This winter, along with Fort Lauderdale, WestJet will operate 29 weekly departures from St. John’s including non-stop to Orlando, Toronto and Halifax.  

“We have made considerable investments in making Newfoundland and Labrador more affordably connected to the rest of Canada and the world.

“We can confirm that this summer, WestJet will operate a non-stop service between Halifax and Dublin, which will offer our guests convenient connectivity from central and eastern Canada into Dublin.

“WestJet is in the process of contacting all affected guests on the St. John’s / Dublin route to let them know of the itinerary change where they will now be routed through Halifax.”

Mr Cronin praised the connection between Newfoundland and Irish history and said the group would like to see a new direct connection being launched by either WestJet or another airline.

“Henry Winton commented back in the mid 19th century that ‘Newfoundland is merely Waterford parted from the sea’,” he said.

“I would go a step further and say that ‘Newfoundland is merely the Southeast of Ireland parted from the sea’.”

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