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Turbulence and growth: A look at Saskatchewan air travel in 2023

Turbulence and growth: A look at Saskatchewan air travel in 2023
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Air travel in Saskatchewan faced a rocky road starting in 2023, but many in the business say things have levelled out and they’re optimistic heading into the new year.


Jamie Milton, president of Uniglobe Carefree Travel, said 2023 was a year of ups and downs with Sunwing cancelling all its flights and massive snow storms affecting travel across the country.

She said they’re hoping to not see as much disruption as this past year.


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Milton said the summer was busy and there was a lot of travel to Europe during that time.

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“This year we’re starting to see things normalize a little bit, so a little bit of a dip in that demand,” Milton said.

Milton said because of the disruptions many people are looking for those non-stop flights.

She gave some tips for people going abroad this time of year, saying people should leave enough time between connecting flights if they have any.

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“We are seeing still some delays happening right now, so 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour.”

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She suggested that people pack snacks, saying you may not have time to eat if your flight is delayed or you’re stuck in a lineup.

Milton said there are some cases where baggage arrival is delayed as well, so people should pack their essentials in their carry-on bag.

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“And just be patient. Pack your kindness, you know, it’s the Christmas season and there’s always busy flights and a little bit of disruption at that time.”

Looking to 2024, Milton said they were projecting an increase of 20 to 30 per cent for the coming year in travel sales.

She said demand is building and there’s a lot of capacity to be added.

CJ Dushinski, vice-president of business development and service quality for YXE Saskatoon Airport, said it’s been a positive year at the airport, and they’ve almost returned to 100 per cent of passenger traffic later in the year.

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“We were really pleased with how we saw the year come together,” Dushinski said.

She said they started the year with a lot of winter storms in other hubs, which impacted the aviation system early in the year.

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But it wasn’t all bad news in 2023. Dushinski highlighted the WestJet flight to Minneapolis, saying it was good to see returning services.

James Bogusz, president and CEO of the Regina Airport Authority, said it was a slow start in the year for the Regina Airport, pointing toward the reduction in service from Sunwing.

“That was the beginning of the year, but things quickly picked up,” Bogusz said.

He pointed to the additional seats added to the Calgary hub from WestJet.

He said this was the best summer they’ve had since 2019, as there was pent-up travel demand.

Jason Childs, associate professor of economics at the University of Regina, said tourism isn’t a big part of Saskatchewan’s economy, but said airlines pulling out of the province or offering less could impact consumer spending.

“Where travelling or getting outside the region has just gotten that much more expensive and that much harder,” Childs said.

He said the harder it is to get to a location, the harder it is to get venture capitalists in to sign a deal.

Childs said there’s no immediate risk, but down the line there could be.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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