If all goes to plan, travelers will be able to visit sun destinations in the US and the Caribbean this fall and winter, from John C Munro Hamilton International Airport, but it will require government co-operation. At a round table virtual discussion Tuesday, executives from WestJet and Swoop Airlines described government measures that will be necessary for the carriers to resume service to pre-pandemic levels. Swoop Airlines President Charles Duncan said his company wants to resume sun destination flights from Hamilton to Montego Bay, Orlando, Clearwater, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun later this fall, but they need clarity from the federal government on what the COVID protocols will look like. Hamilton at present is not on the list of Canadian Airports allowed to handle foreign flights.
Also there is the issue of children under 12, who under current Ontario regulations, have to go through a 14-day quarantine on return to Canada—a major barrier to family travel. Mr. Duncan said it has been a challenge adapting to the various provincial COVID protocols which are not uniform. He said that prior to the pandemic, Swoop had moved 1.5 million passengers through Hamilton and Hamilton Airport is an important hub in Swoop’s international flights and as a gateway into the GTA for budget travellers from western provinces.
Hamilton Airport CEO Cathy Puckering says the airport has worked hard during the pandemic to reduce the number of personal contact points and to institute enhanced cleaning so that passengers can feel safe when flying. She noted that even with the devastating effects of the pandemic on air travel, YHM carried 286,000 passengers who needed to travel despite COVID.
Ms. Puckering described a Choose Comfort campaign launched by the airport that emphasized the convenient traveller experience that is available in a smaller airport, noting for example, that it is only 200 steps from the airport parking lot to the plane. She said the airport has provided facilities that will make customs and border clearances more convenient.
The WestJet and Swoop executives said Tuesday’s round table, which attracted over 30 participants will become more regular, as carriers seek to work more closely with the communities they serve.