Dryden, Fort Frances, Kenora now without scheduled air service

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Regularly scheduled air service has been discontinued from three northwestern Ontario communities.

First announced in January, Perimeter Aviation, the Winnipeg parent company of Bearskin Airlines, has delivered on its decision to drop service from Dryden, Kenora and Fort Frances on May 11.

What’s in the immediate future to restore service remains unclear but a regional effort is underway to find an alternative carrier.

With the service drop date passed, City of Dryden CAO Roger Nesbitt responded by email that the search to land a new carrier remains ongoing.

“At this point, I really don’t have much else to share. We are in discussions with various carriers to understand what service they could potentially offer and what incentives they would require, if any, to service the Dryden area out of the Dryden Regional Airport.”

Senior government intervention looks likely, to either provide subsidies for air service and/or funding to ensure the long-term viability of the local airports.

Last month, MP and Northern Development Minister Greg Rickford hinted that’s a possibility during a Q & A session with municipal leaders at the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association conference in Thunder Bay in April.

Queen’s Park is not in the business of running airlines, Rickford said, but said he understood the consequences of residents not being able to fly out of the region.

He called the outgoing service provided by Perimeter Aviation “inadequate,” leaving residents of the Kenora-Rainy River district resorting to flying other carriers out of Winnipeg.

Communities like Dryden are on the upswing with nearby natural resource development.

Dryden is geographically positioned to be a service and accommodations hub for Treasury Metals and its planned gold mine, east of Dryden. The termination of air service was cause for concern by the company president.

Rickford noted government can play a role in working with airport authorities to re-establish service with affordable fares and to support air travel within and outside the region. Discussions continue on that front, he said.

Rickford gave assurances that funding for local airport improvements “isn’t going anywhere,” that the necessary operational and safety infrastructure to support a commercial carrier and patient transportation will be place.

“We’ll be ready for that.”

 

 

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