Moncton to Newark – a 10 year hurdle passed

Ever since I have lived in Moncton and before, there have been serious discussions about getting a direct flight from Moncton to some key hub in the United States. Local business people, residents and pontential investors in to the community all stated that getting here was a serious hassle. In fact, some companies that visited Moncton from the U.S. took all day just to get here.

Yesterday, the Greater Moncton International Airport announced that Continental Airlines would be offering a direct service from Moncton to Newark on the outskirts of New York City. Newark is a hub airport offering connections to dozens of U.S. and international connections.

Here’s a quote from the press release:

“New Brunswick is one of Canada’s fastest-growing U.S. tourism destinations with about 500,000 thousand visitors a year,” said Alex Heiter, manager, Scheduling and Planning, Continental Airlines. “By connecting Moncton to Continental’s hub in Newark, travelers from New Brunswick will have the most convenient connections to U.S., Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.”

There are many reasons why this is excellent news. Here are a few:

1. It makes Moncton much more accessible for international businesses and tourists

2. It means more competition which means more competitive prices for travel outside Canada.

3. It means that visitors can get here (and we can travel out) with in most cases only one connection instead of two.

4. It means that we know have a highly viable option for international travel. Instead of flying west to Toronto, we can know fly south to Newark and connect to Mexico or Brazil.

5. It solidify’s the airport as a ‘hub’ for air traffic. For too long in this region there have been too many airports. New Brunswick still has more airports with scheduled air services than Ontario (on a per capita basis). Consolidating air travellers – even if they have to drive 2 hours – makes more sense in the long run. Flying from Miramichi to Toronto, then connecting to a U.S. hub and then flying on a regional plane to the final destination is much more time intensive than driving to Moncton, flying direct to Newark and connecting to the final destination. And it is cheaper too.

6. Finally, it’s a key feather in the economic development cap of the community. Many communities have had to buy in airlines with guarantees of passengers (i.e. Delta in Fredericton) but as I understand it, no ‘ticket trust’ or any other guarantees were offered to Continental. They are here for the business case, period.

Now, I think the time is right for the airport to dust off another old idea. That being the establishment of a shuttle bus service that would run from Northeastern NB to the airport and possibly from central Nova Scotia. I am not suggesting a loss leader but someone should take a look and see if there would be a serious business case to set this service up. One of the unknown attributes of the Pearson Airport in Toronto is that it services a local market in the GTA that spans 2-3 hour radius around the airport. Passengers from Waterloo, Kitchener, Oshawa, Hamilton, etc. are brought in on cheap shuttle buses that pick them up at their door. It may seem odd that these cities with populations greater than Moncton have no airport to speak of but the truth is that the more consolidation of air traffic you can achieve the better outcomes for the whole region (in terms of competition, flight choices, destinations, etc.).

Congratulations to the airport for landing this strategic and vital service. Congratulations to Enterprise Greater Moncton for the support role it played.

Watch out, folks. Right under our noses, Greater Moncton is growing up. 15-20 years ago this was a community reeling from the closure of the CN Shops – which at its peak employed some 25% of the non-services workers in all of Moncton.

You’ve come a long way, baby.