Roundtable calls for immediate return of international airport status

Tuesday, October 5 saw more than 60 leaders in travel, business and government, including the newly elected Member of Parliament, Dan Muys meet around the WestJet and Swoop virtual table to discuss what is needed to ensure the full recovery of the region’s economy.

On the top of the agenda, the return of John C. Munro International Airport’s “international” status, which was revoked at the beginning of the pandemic when the Canadian government shut down all international flying with the exception of Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal airports.

“We believe all Canadian communities should participate equally in the recovery of travel and tourism and that Hamilton should not be excluded,” stated Andy Gibbons, WestJet Vice-President Government Relations. “The airport is ready to accept travellers, our network is ready to go, we are awaiting confirmation from the government on dates so that we can provide certainty to our guests on our international schedule.”

“The health and safety of our travellers, business partners and employees always has been and always will be our top priority at Hamilton International,” stated Cathie Puckering, President and CEO of John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport. “We are continually examining each step of the customer journey through our facility and have proactively adopted additional measures to ensure that the travel experience at the Airport reflects both the changing expectations of travellers while addressing new concerns brought on by COVID-19.”

The WestJet / Swoop Restart Roundtable, hosted by WestJet Vice-President, Andy Gibbons and Swoop President, Charles Duncan, took place after COVID-19 has decimated the industry and the Ontario travel industry lost more than $5.2 billion in international travel revenue. It was WestJet’s 16th roundtable meeting.

Participants from the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, City of Hamilton, Hamilton Halton Brant Regional Tourism, Government of Canada, KF Aerospace, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), NAVCAN, Jetport, CATSA, Mohawk College and more discussed the critical nature of aviation to the community and how stakeholders could continue to collaborate to support recovery.

We are confident that the Airport is well-prepared and ready to receive international and transborder flights and remain optimistic that the federal government will extend its list of approved airports,” added Cathie Puckering. “We continue to advocate alongside our airline and industry partners for the inclusion of John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport so that we can better serve our local community and support a safe and successful restart of air travel and tourism beyond our national borders.”

Both WestJet and Swoop fly out of the Hamilton region; WestJet since 2000 and Swoop since the airline’s inception in 2018. Swoop alone has provided $80 million in economic output for the region (2019) and has helped contribute to passenger growth of 118 per cent at YHM between 2016 and 2018, accounting for more than 55 per cent of the growth.

Said Charles Duncan, Swoop President, ““While vaccinations in Canada are leading the globe and as aviation becomes the first fully vaccinated industry, we are looking to the Government of Canada to remove barriers put in place pre-vaccine to ensure the economic recovery of the industry. The sooner we have certainty around international status dates as a start, the better for business, trade and travellers, who are all holding their breath to see what happens.”

Charles Duncan, Swoop President, Dan Muys, MP Flamborough Glanbrook, Andrew Gibbons, WestJet Vice-President From Left on bottom: Maria Fortunato, Hamilton Halton Brant Regional Tourism Association, Cathie Puckering, President and CEO Hamilton International Airport, Ryan McHugh, Manager Tourism and Events, City of Hamilton