Bearskin Airlines decision to drop service to Ottawa and Kitchener-Waterloo on April 1, and reduce flights to the major Northern Ontario cities, can be attributed to a softening in the mining and southern Ontario high-tech industries.
“Our cost to deliver service has been increasing over the last few years and our increase in revenue just hasn’t kept pace,” said Ron Hell, Bearskin’s director of marketing and sales, based in Thunder Bay.
“We made a decision to restructure and reduce the size of our company and refocus on our core market again.”
The company will reduce the number of flights between Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Timmins and North Bay.
“It will be different in each market,” said Hell.
Staff layoffs are also coming in various departments throughout the company.
“We’re still working on that right now, “said Hell. “I can’t talk about numbers or positions.”
Hell said business remains “reasonably strong,” but the drop in mineral exploration activity that started last summer, and continued with the slowdown in the Ring of Fire, has had an impact.
Bearskin launched service to Ottawa in the mid-1990s and extended that into the Kitchener-Waterloo area in 1997.
Hell said the Waterloo-Ottawa route was regarded as a free-standing service that was introduced to meet the needs of the high-tech sector and companies like Research in Motion, as well as government, student and other business travellers.
“All of that (travelling market) has gone soft.”