Gander International Airport in Newfoundland is among several airports essentially shut down after a slew of service cuts from Air Canada.

Citing reduced loads due to the coronavirus pandemic and government travel restrictions, Air Canada announced it will end service to Gander, St. John’s and Goose Bay in Newfoundland, Sydney, N.S., as well as Saint John and Fredericton, N.B. effective January 23. The move comes as the airline lays off 1,700 staff across Canada.

“The new year continues to hold bad news for our sector,” Gander International Airport Authority CEO Reg Wright said. “Tightened federal and provincial travel restrictions are choking off the little bit of travel demand there is.”

The move leaves few options for the thousands of Newfoundlanders working in essential jobs in western Canada to travel between home and work.

A small regional carrier is running routes between Gander and Goose Bay and Halifax, but service reductions are affecting these airports as well, posing challenges for anyone wishing to connect to the mainland.

“There’s one thing you need as an airport in Newfoundland and Labrador, and that is you need daily service to mainland Canada. That is absolutely fundamental for an airport to have any prospect of success,” Wright said.

Gander’s airport has a long history. Its location made it crucial to the Allied war effort in WWII.

When American airspace was closed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 38 flights and over 6,500 people were redirected to Gander and taken in by the small town, whose residents opened their homes to diverted travellers.

The community’s hospitality was celebrated in the hit Broadway musical Come From Away.

Many airports in Canada are operating at as little as 15% of their total capacity due to travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders across Canada.

Yellowknife, N.W.T. and British Columbia’s Prince Rupert and Kamloops have also been dropped from Air Canada’s service offerings.

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