Bearskin Airlines is increasing flight frequencies along its corridor connecting several northeastern and northwestern Ontario cities — including North Bay — according to a release issued by Perimeter Aviation, the airline's parent company.
Bearskin announced service between Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury and North Bay will be upped every other week, effective September 14. This will bring the Thunder Bay to North Bay corridor up to two flights daily on weekdays, plus Sunday service.
Jack Santerre, airport manager at Jack Garland Airport, welcomed this good news as the local airport lost its Air Canada business earlier this summer when the airline pulled out its service as part of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is positive news and shows that Bearskin Airlines sees a return by air travellers in their northern Ontario market," said Santerre.
"North Bay Jack Garland Airport continued to see service by Bearskin Airlines during the pandemic and looks forward to the increase in services as of September 14, 2020."
Bearskin Airlines officials say they will be enhancing safety protocols and assures the expansion of flights is made possible by "company-wide protocols [that] have been established to prevent the spread of COVID-19, ensuring the safety of employees and passengers."
Augmented health and safety measures are also in place at Jack Garland Airport.
"North Bay Jack Garland Airport has implemented safety protocols to ensure passenger safety which compliments and enhances Bearskin Airlines and CATSA safety protocols and looks forward to welcoming the increase," said Santerre.
In late June, local politicians were left scrambling after Air Canada announced it was indefinitely suspending service on 30 domestic regional routes and closing eight stations at regional airports in Canada, including the station in North Bay, eliciting a stern response from the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce.
See related story: Air Canada takes off from North Bay amid mounting losses
To introduce the increased flight departures, Bearskin says it will offer "substantially discounted flights booked by September 4," to a "limited number of seats on every new flight between Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury and North Bay." Bearskin says the offer is available for flights scheduled through the end of November.
Also effective September 14, Bearskin Airlines is resuming scheduled services between Thunder Bay and Dryden, Fort Frances, and Kenora — by offering a single flight each weekday. Service to these communities has been suspended since March 23 due to the pandemic.
The renewed service will offer passenger connections at the airline's Thunder Bay hub to and from Toronto via Air Canada.
Perimeter Aviation operates main bases in Winnipeg, Thompson, Man., Thunder Bay and Sioux Lookout with daily scheduled service to more than 30 communities in Manitoba and Northern Ontario.
With files from Chris Dawson