Prospective air service touts flights from Waterloo Region to Quebec
A new private charter service is touting flights from Waterloo Region to Montreal and Gatineau, Que. – even though it hasn’t officially launched yet.
NextJet Canada tweeted this week that it would offer “direct flights” to and from the two Quebec airports.
Speaking to CTV News on Friday, company owner Tan Ahmed said that he hoped to have more details to announce before long.
Chris Wood, the general manager of the Region of Waterloo International Airport, said in an interview that he was caught off-guard by NextJet’s announcement, which came one day after the airline and airport first discusses the possibility of local service.
“We agreed that we would continue to talk,” Wood said.
“I was quite surprised to see … that they had announced via Twitter that they were starting. That was a surprise to us.”
As of Friday morning, NextJet’s website allowed interested flyers to input their personal information, but stopped short of accepting any sort of payment.
The website was advertising one daily return flight from Waterloo Region to each of Gatineau and Montreal – with bookings starting Saturday, even though no flights have actually been scheduled.
NextJet plans to operate as a private charter service, which is different from a traditional airline in that it would not use the airport’s main terminal, and would provide little revenue for the airport and its owner, the Region of Waterloo.
While the airport would see revenue from things like landing fees and parking, Wood called the overall amount “minimal.”
“We’re always interested in having more airplanes use our airport, but it really doesn’t satisfy our desire to have scheduled service with the ability to connect beyond Ottawa and/or Montreal,” he said.
Service from Waterloo Region to places like Montreal and Ottawa has been tried before.
Trillium Air launched out of the local airport in 1999, and cancelled its flights three years later citing a lack of passengers.
Quik Air found the same experience in 2004, lasting only eight months.
The most recent provider of flights to Ottawa was Bearskin Airlines, which stopped that service in 2014 as part of a bigger change to its Ontario business.
Bill Morrison, a professor and aviation researcher at Wilfrid Laurier University, says that a service like the one advertised by NextJet would mainly be targeting business travellers.
Success or failure for a venture like that, Morrison said, would come down to how close to being full the planes are.
He cited Bearskin as an example – saying it only needed nine or 10 passengers per flight to meet its goals, because it used smaller planes.
“It could be profitable for them, but we’ll have to wait and see,” he said.
There is no connection between NextJet Canada and NextJet, a similarly named and already existing airline in Sweden.