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Updated: Thu, 24 Oct 2013 21:35:32 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Air Canada dropped London flight over spat with Edmonton airport



Air Canada announced it was suspending its weekly Edmonton flight to London after the airport authority promoted Icelandair's flight to Reykjavik. CBC

Air Canada announced it was suspending its weekly Edmonton flight to London after the airport authority promoted Icelandair's flight to Reykjavik. CBC

The head of the Edmonton International Airport says he is concerned by a letter from Air Canada, saying it suspended its direct flight to London after the airport promoted Icelandair's direct flight to Reykjavik.

"When you get a letter like this from a partner as significant as Air Canada, obviously you're going to be concerned because this route is extremely important to us," said EIA president Reg Milley. 

"It's important to our community, and so to receive notice from Air Canada that they were going to suspend the route was a major concern to us."

When Air Canada announced earlier this month it was suspending the weekly flight to Heathrow (LHR) from January through March, spokeswoman Angela Mah only noted the challenge of keeping the route profitable during the winter months.

But the letter sent to the EIA by Air Canada highlighted a different concern by the airline. 

"Your recent announcement that Icelandair, with some financial and other support from YEG [Edmonton's airport], will be commencing service between YEG and Reykjavik Airport (KEF) gave us cause to revisit our YEG international operations," Derek Vanstone, vice-president of corporate strategy, wrote to Reg Milley, EIAA president and CEO.

"This is not a decision that we are taking lightly, but it is one that reflects our profound disappointment in the manner which this has been handled," Vanstone continues.

"We were specifically very disappointed with your comments reported in the Edmonton Journal, which promoted the Icelandair service at the expense of Air Canada's LHR service, alleging that LHR — one of the great gateways to the world, with connections not only to Europe but also to the Middle and Far East, Africa and the Indian subcontinent — was inconvenient and a poor substitute for KEF.

"Frankly, we expect more from our partners."

The decision to suspend the flights angered the city's business community.

Milley says while the Iceland route might act as competition to the Heathrow flights, EIA will continue to pursue more direct flights from carriers. 

Air Canada refused an interview with CBC News to discuss the letter, but Mah did send an emailed response. 

"Despite ongoing promotional initiatives, it has always been a challenge for the route to be profitable during the winter months. Reykjavik (KEF) is a hub airport that competes directly with London Heathrow for connecting traffic to many of the same points in Europe which is a factor in the Edmonton-London route’s year-round route performance," she wrote.

"To mitigate the challenge of operating the route in the winter, Air Canada has taken the difficult decision to suspend the winter operation from Jan 8-Mar 28, 2014."

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