PORTLAND, Maine — Portland International Jetport can finally start living up to its name.
On Thursday, a new direct flight from Portland to Halifax takes off, touching down in Nova Scotia’s capital city in around an hour — about the time it might take to board The CAT ferry at Ocean Gateway Pier enroute to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
The first international flight to leave from the jetport, also known as the Portland-Westbrook Municipal Airport, or PWM, in several years was originally scheduled to depart June 30. But at the last minute the trip was postponed due to a computer systems breakdown.
“We have been working for three years on implementing it,” said John Pearsall, president of Portland-based Elite Airways, who has worked with Jetport brass and executives at Halifax Stanfield International Airport to make this twice weekly flight, on intimate charter planes, a reality. “They have been dying for it. Airport management has been proactive.”
Though it’s too early to tell how direct service between the two hubs will impact Maine’s largest city, the fast connection opens Halifax, a peninsula of approximately 400,000 people, up as a new travel option for Mainers.
“Portland and Halifax have similar economies. Geographically they are not that far away, but the Gulf of Maine gets in the way,” said Zachary Sundquist, assistant airport director at Portland International Jetport.
Up until this point, getting to Halifax from here has been a full day affair requiring a six-hour ferry ride and driving more than three hours.
Now it’s a weekend jaunt, priced between $99 and $169 one way.
On the other side of the Atlantic, entrepreneurs like Richard Arnold, president of Atlantic Tours Limited, which takes Canadians on shopping tours of Bangor via motor coach, are thinking ahead to capitalize on Portland’s suddenly accessible offerings.
“Should this be successful, we would create something in a new way,” said Arnold, who has a shopping trip of Greater Portland in mind. “We might start with something tentative. If we get the ask, we will start doing it.”
Meanwhile, ferry executives are not biting their nails. Though ferry service to Nova Scotia from Maine has had its ups and downs, the flight is seen as a boon for Atlantic Canada, not a threat.
“The more people that can move between Northeast U.S. and Eastern Canada the better,” said Mark MacDonald, CEO of Bay Ferries Limited.
“I don’t care if they are in an airplane, ferry, cruise ship or get dropped by a parachute. The more people moving around the more get to see the destination. We will get them sooner or later.”