WestJet No Longer Leading Newfoundlanders Over Rainbows and to Pots of Gold
On November 22, WestJet announced that its direct flight from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Dublin, Ireland would be cancelled as of summer 2019 citing the route’s unde-rperformance as the reason. This created a number of turbulent customers on either side of the Atlantic.
Residents in St. John’s as well Dublin are not taking WestJet’s decision lying down. Kieran Cronin, an Irish scholar who studies Newfoundland and Labrador, has launched a Facebook page called Newfoundland Ireland Direct Connection in order for people to share their stories and personal experiences because he isn’t buying WestJet’s reasoning for cancelling the service after studying passenger numbers publicly available from Ireland's Central Statistics Office.
The Racket communicated with Cronin via email about the group that he hopes will lead to the “the re-introduction of a Newfoundland Ireland Direct Connection. “He was “deeply saddened” when he learned of WestJet’s decision. He said WestJet’s statement regarding the route, not performing to the airline’s expectations struck a chord. “When the service was launched in 2013 it was the claimed to be the most successful launch of a new route in WestJet's history, according to St John's International Airport,” Cronin said. “I have generated statistical evidence to disprove the fact that numbers of Passengers were dropping in Newfoundland and Dublin since the route began in 2014.”
“The immediate question I asked myself when I heard the news was: is there anything we can do collectively to address this decision?” he said. This lead to Cronin penning an open letter to WestJet. “As of Thursday, November 29, six days after writing the letter and four days after launching the Facebook page we have passed the 1500 members mark and well on the way to 1600,” said Cronin. “The personal stories of individual WestJet customers who have been left detached by this decision by the company to cease the route continues to enlighten and empower me.”
Cronin believes the answers from WestJet regarding the route’s cancellation are uncertain and in short supply but he is not giving up. “I am 100% committed to working side by side with my fellow activists and organizations including the Ireland Newfoundland Connection and Newfoundland and Labrador Irish Connections to reintroduce a direct connection between Newfoundland and Ireland whether this is with WestJet or another air carrier.”
Cronin has taken the direct flight from Dublin to St. John’s four times this year. “I spent 6 wonderful weeks on the island this summer and in autumn,” he said. While here he travelled to Corner Brook, Placentia, the Irish Loop, Fogo Island, Bonavista, and Trinity while also exploring St. John’s. “I am a researcher and librarian so spending three weeks at the Rooms Museum and Provincial Archives were personal highlights but it was a holistic experience on Talamh an Éisc that I will never forget,” he recounted. Cronin hopes that the last direct flight of the season, which he flew on this past fall, will not be the last of the St. John’s to Dublin route.
While WestJet has responded to individual members of Newfoundland Ireland Direct Connection, they have responded to individual member queries on social media and via telephone but Cronin said their responses have been “conflicting”.
The Racket reached out to WestJet for comment. “We understand this is disappointing news for the community and Newfoundland and Labrador overall and we are sorry we are unable to continue this flying in 2019. This decision was not taken lightly, however, the route was not performing to expectation and as result, the choice was made to discontinue the service,” said Morgan Bell, a media and public relations advisor for WestJet via email. She said WestJet remains “committed to growing aviation in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador” and listed new flights to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Toronto, and Halifax. “We have made considerable investments in making Newfoundland and Labrador more affordably connected to the rest of Canada and the world,” she said.
WestJet did not address our question regarding a comment on the Newfoundland Ireland Direct Connection Facebook page but said they were in the process of contacting all affected guests on the St. John’s/Dublin route “to let them know of the itinerary change where they will now be routed through Halifax.”