Canadian airlines suspend winter flights to hurricane damaged St. Maarten
Canadian travellers hoping to vacation in St. Maarten this winter will have to make alternative plans after hurricane damage forced several airlines to suspend service for the season.
Air Canada issued an advisory on its website saying that damage caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria has resulted in its suspension of all flights to the Caribbean island and Puerto Rico. Affected customers can obtain a refund.
The storms had deadly consequences for island residents but no material impact on the airline's results even though it sent several flights to pick up stranded passengers.
Transat AT also said it has suspended service for the season that was expected to run from Dec. 23 to April 28.
``Due to the impacts of hurricanes, the tourism infrastructure on the island has suffered greatly,'' the tour company which operates Air Transat wrote in an email.
``Many hotels have been severely damaged and customer demand has also been affected.''
Meanwhile, WestJet said in an email late Monday that it would resume service to the Caribbean island in May.
Spokeswoman Lauren Stewart said WestJet operated about 16,000 seats to St. Maarten last winter with four weekly flights.
Sunwing couldn't be immediately reached for comment.
Published reports in St. Maarten say Princess Juliana International Airport sustained up to US$100 million in damages, including to the terminal roof.
The airport has been using temporary facilities since it reopened to commercial traffic Oct. 10.
Other islands that were battered by hurricanes are preparing to welcome Canadian travellers.
Montreal-based Transat said it will begin flights from Toronto and Montreal to Puerto Rico in mid-February, instead of Dec. 24, while its normal service has resumed to most of Cuba.
Transat also said its cruise line partners are reviewing winter itineraries in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean. Revisions are expected to be announced within weeks, but dates of voyage won't change.
The weather-related disruptions have prompted Air Transat to expand its offerings to popular sun destinations in Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Florida, and parts of Cuba and Mexico. The airline carries Canadians to 35 sun destinations from 22 Canadian cities.