David Duplisea | Commentary
On Monday, Saint John Airport saw its last commercial flight take off. When the
next passenger plane will land at YSJ is unknown.
Airlines and airports around the world have been hit hard by the decline in global
travel as a result of COVID-19. And while weʼve all heard the inspiring stories of
businesses – including our own chamber members – that have pivoted and
persevered during these challenging times, these stories have been few and far
Itʼs well documented that airports wield heavy influence on the growth of cities
and industries. Airports shape business location and urban development. They
bring people here for both business and pleasure. Our economic recovery and our
future as a city and a region rely on a thriving airport.
Yet with passenger flights out of YSJ suspended, we have never been closer to
losing our airport. We must do everything we can to ensure its survival.
Our region must step up and ensure our tourism, business growth and
transportation assets are safeguarded until itʼs safe for them to be fully operational
Our airport is a vital link to ensure our continued economic success and growth. Itʼs
about our future ability to compete with other regions and ensure our businesses
have the same advantage as urban centres around the world. Itʼs about tourism
recovery and growth, attracting and retaining students, and encouraging more new
Canadians to move here.
With so much at stake, we must wrap our collective arms around the Saint John
Airport. We cannot rely entirely on various boards and agencies to lead this charge.
Instead, we must take responsibility as a community.
We know it has been self-sustaining, profitable and growing since it was
privatized in 1999. Before COVID-19, the Saint John Airport contributed more
than $60 million to our areaʼs economic output. In 2017 and 2018, we saw two
consecutive years of record-breaking passenger activity. In 2019, YSJ benefited
from a major investment to completely modernize its airfield, resulting in one of
the most technologically advanced airfields for an airport itʼs size in Canada.
We need to all work together to ensure it continues to serve southern New
Brunswickʼs travel needs.
What can you do? Share what youʼve read, show your support for YSJ on social
media and urge governments to launch testing programs for arriving passengers.
These are challenging days. Our province has seen a resurgence of COVID-19.
Vaccine supply has yet to keep up with demand. And weʼre looking at a period of
no flight activity.
But better days are on the horizon. And when they come, we must ensure we have
all economic recovery tools at our disposal – including YSJ.
We know airports have a stronger connection to regional growth and people
attraction than almost any other sector or industry. Itʼs up to all of us to work with
our community partners and businesses to get our city, our region and our province
back up and running to full capacity as safely and as quickly as possible – an effort
that depends on the Saint John Airport.
David Duplisea is the CEO of the Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce