International flights are finally returning to Halifax post-COVID-19. Coupled with easing travel restrictions, flying in and out of the province is starting to look and feel normal. For international students like myself, these flights can make travelling between university and home a little bit better.
Not only does a greater selection of international destinations provide nonstop access to more cities outside of Canada, but more destinations mean more accessibility. For example, international students from the United States can now go through American customs while leaving Halifax or any other Canadian airport. Moreover, flights to Mexico, Cuba, France and the United Kingdom can provide seamless travel and more connections, depending on the season. Some flights are even taking travellers to entirely new nonstop destinations.
One of these flights is a direct American Airlines flight between Halifax and Washington, D.C., my hometown.
During the pandemic
I grew up going to Nova Scotia to visit my relatives living on the province’s south shore. Never had I seen or heard of a direct flight between my city and Halifax.
Halifax, to my family, was always hard to get to despite being around only a 1000-kilometre drive up the coast. We always had layovers in New York City or Boston.
The pandemic made travelling back home worse. The Canadian government designated a select few airports to take international flights. Halifax was not one of them. My options dwindled from many airlines to one: Air Canada.
Throughout the pandemic, my flights were often delayed. This made me miss my connections, the only ones available to me, which left just an hour or two after my original planned landing time. Sometimes I’d stay overnight at my connection’s airport hotel, forcing me to retake my COVID-19 travel tests to enter the U.S. It was costly and many times, Air Canada gate agents were rude, not giving adequate compensation or help when I had trouble. Many times, I wondered if there was a way to avoid the often overpriced and overhyped airline.
I also had to go through U.S. Customs in Montreal or Toronto. While completing customs in Canada provided me with a seamless arrival, it added to my annoyance. Going through American Customs in Canada means every traveller has to go through security, even if they are connecting. During each trip, I had to go through security twice, taking away any extra time I might have had left.
So when I discovered that there was a direct flight between Halifax and D.C., I knew I had to get on it. To boost tourism, flights from cities such as D.C. take place in the summer as more people travel during these months. Nevertheless, although I had to return to connections in the winter, I had to experience the direct flight at least once.
Unlike daily flights from Boston and London, the Washington flight runs once a week on Saturday. There is not that much demand for it.
My experience leading to the flight almost made me almost second guess if the flight was really happening.
Upon arriving at the airport, I told the check-in desk I was travelling to Canada. The agent immediately assumed I had a connection. While trying to find my gate on the departure board, I found my flight was not listed under Halifax, but YHZ (Halifax’s lesser-known IATA code) at the bottom of the board. My gate was also the last in the terminal, surrounded by short flights to New Hampshire and Michigan. It was as if nobody cared or knew about Halifax.
I was surprised there were only a handful of university-aged students on my flight, even though the semester started in just a few days. Instead, besides two families with children, many passengers were older adults who complained about ArriveCan while excitedly talking about their trips to a province they had never been to before. It was surprising but wonderful to hear that many Washingtonians were excited to experience Halifax and Nova Scotia.
All of that said, besides the turbulence, travelling to Halifax was easier than I had experienced during the pandemic.
International students can find benefits and peace from taking this flight and other international flights, even if they have a connection. More flights to larger airports provide more opportunities for students to go home faster and easier than during the pandemic.
The bottom line
There still are some challenges. United Airlines, which reduced destinations during the pandemic, hasn’t returned to Halifax. Neither have American Airlines flights.
Flights to Chicago and New York were discontinued, while the flight to Boston has become extremely expensive. While searching for flights back home via Boston, the trip I found would cost around $1500 in U.S. dollars. International students may need to check out other airlines in that case. But, as the airline industry begins to find its wings again, United and others will hopefully return and open up more travel options for international students.
For the students who now have the opportunity to fly on a nonstop flight, take it. Nonstop flights can help you feel closer to family as the journey is a lot shorter and will help you travel smoothly. Therefore, nonstop flights are certainly an upgrade from the complicated pandemic flying days and are beneficial to the international student community.