DRYDEN — Bearskin Airlines will terminate its scheduled passenger air service in Dryden, Fort Frances and Kenora in May.
Winnipeg-based parent company Perimeter Aviation said it regrets the decision, but blamed the sustained impact of the COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in an unprecedented decline in passenger volume.
"Travel levels in Dryden, Kenora and Fort Frances have not rebounded to pre-COVID levels, posing significant challenges to the sustainability of our operations in these communities," the company said in a Jan. 15 news release.
It said the three destinations averaged only two passengers per flight over the past year.
The City of Dryden first revealed in an announcement earlier Monday that it had been told Bearskin flights at Dryden Regional Airport will stop on May 11, 2024.
Officials in Kenora and Fort Frances subsequently confirmed they had been informed that service to those communities will also be suspended.
The statement from the City of Dryden said the loss of the service will have profound impacts on residents, businesses, and essential services, as well as the community's connectivity.
Mayor Jack Harrison called the decision "disheartening" and "a crisis in air transportation," but said the city is committed to finding an alternative carrier.
The city said it plans to reach out to airlines that can meet the community's needs with respect to pricing, scheduling and reliability.
"Although finding a new carrier presents some challenges, city officials are optimistic about finding a viable solution to reinstate scheduled service to and from Dryden," the statement added.
The municipally owned airport receives federal grants to help cover its costs.
Losing Bearskin's daily (six days a week) flights could reduce those grants, the mayor said, as they are based on the number of passengers using the airport.
Harrison said he expects Dryden will work with Kenora and Fort Frances to try to find a joint resolution to the problem.
Bearskin will continue to operate regular scheduled services to Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury and North Bay.