In further unfortunate news for Canadian travelers, Air Canada has announced that it will be making further cuts to its flight schedule as the pandemic continues to hit the company’s operations.
The company has made the decision as further restrictions on international travel have been implemented by the Canadian government since the new year, and amid limited demand for both domestic and international flights. Air Canada’s flight cuts are not unexpected, coming on the back of a similar announcement by WestJet last week, but are nonetheless another blow to Canadians hoping to travel over coming months.
Further Cuts To Flight Capacity Reducing Traveler’s Options
Air Canada’s decision to introduce additional capacity cuts will further restrict flight options for Canadian travelers, following on from already significant reductions in flight schedules which have already taken place across Canadian airlines.
On January 13 Air Canada announced that it would be reducing its flight capacity for the first quarter of 2021 by 25%, meaning that the airline will be operating just 20% of the flights that it was running in the first quarter of 2019. This clearly represents a huge reduction in flight options for travelers, adding to previously announced flight cuts at the end of last year.
Lucie Guillemette, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at Air Canada, said in a statement that the implementation of new government measures impacting travel has had an immediate impact on bookings, and consequently the company has “made the difficult but necessary decision to further adjust our schedule and rationalize our transborder, Caribbean and domestic routes to better reflect expected demand and to reduce cash burn”.
The company has not provided a definitive list of the flights and destinations that will be affected by the changes, however it seems that several domestic and international routes will be suspended. In particular, flights between Atlantic Canada and the rest of the country will be badly affected. The company will be suspending all flights in Gander, N.L., Goose Bay, N.L., and Fredericton, New Brunswick, further reducing connections between these communities and the rest of the country.
These new cuts come on top of previously announced flight suspensions to other destinations in Atlantic Canada including Saint John, New Brunswick and Sydney, Nova Scotia, leaving these towns without commercial flight connections. Services to Deer Lake, N.L., Charlottetown, P.E.I., and Halifax, Nova Scotia have also been reduced in recent weeks as Air Canada scales down operations.
Aside from Atlantic Canada, services have also been cut to other domestic destinations including Kamloops and Prince Rupert in British Columbia. The airline has not provided any further details about which international routes have been suspended as yet, but Caribbean and US destinations are likely to be affected. Canadian travelers are certainly set to see less freedom of choice for flights to overseas destinations over coming months.
As part of the new measures, Air Canada has also been forced to cut 1,700 jobs, adding to the more than 20,000 staff already laid off or on furlough since the start of the pandemic. These staffing changes will potentially impact services over the medium term, restricting the company’s ability to quickly increase flight capacity when international travel resumes.
New Travel Rules Affecting All Canadian Airlines
The growing discouragement of international travel by the Canadian government, together with the introduction of new rules affecting travelers returning to Canada, has hit the country’s airlines hard. In recent days the government has introduced new requirements for all new arrivals, including returning citizens, to have proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test, and has also moved to stop returning Canadians from claiming COVID benefits during quarantine.
Travelers had already seen WestJet announce a significant reduction in its flight capacity for the first few months of the year, including flights to a number of popular winter sun destinations, while Air Canada had also considerably reduced its flight schedule prior to the latest cuts. Unlike many countries, the Canadian government has not provided sector-specific support to the aviation industry, forcing airlines to make huge cuts to flight schedules and staff.
Daniel-Robert Gooch, president of the Canadian Airports Council, has said that without more federal support, the domestic aviation industry will struggle to survive the coming months before the pandemic begins to ease and international travel returns. While Air Canada has said that they are encouraged by the progress on the vaccine against COVID-19, this will not help the airline industry in the short-term and travelers should continue to expect more limited flight services through 2021.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories