Troubled by government interventions creating drastic economic setbacks, Air Canada has disclosed to CBC that it is moving to shut down service for 17 more routes as early as next week.
The affected routes are to the U.S. and other international destinations, set to last until April 30th, with the earliest route suspensions to come in effect by February 12th.
As a result of the cancellation of routes, Air Canada will be temporarily laying off 1,500 unionized employees.
The airline has reported that the changes are being made in light of the global pandemic, and options will be made available to affected customers.
Regarding the changes, a spokesperson for Air Canada stated:
“We are further reducing our transborder and international commercial schedule as a result of COVID-19. Affected customers with bookings will be contacted with options, including alternate routings.”
While the spokesperson for Air Canada linked the recent cancellations to just the global pandemic, the airline’s largest union put the blame on the government’s travel restrictions.
Addressing the situation, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) stated:
“This is due to the federal government’s introduction of a mandatory quarantine on arrival as well as the continued suspension of flights to Mexico and the Caribbean.”
The following routes will no longer be in operation by Air Canada through April 30th:
- Toronto to Fort Myers, Fla.
- Toronto to Boston.
- Toronto to Washington, D.C. (Reagan)
- Toronto to Denver
- Toronto to New York City (LaGuardia)
- Montreal to Boston.
- Montreal to LaGuardia.
- Vancouver to Seattle.
- Toronto to Bogotá, Colombia.
- Toronto to Dubai.
- Toronto to São Paulo, Brazil.
- Toronto to Hong Kong.
- Toronto to Tel Aviv, Israel.
- Montreal to Bogotá, Colombia.
- Vancouver to London, U.K.
- Vancouver to Tokyo (Narita).
- Toronto to Dublin, Ireland.
The announcement of the cancellation of some routes comes as a surprise, as some destinations no longer receiving flights do not belong to sun destinations which recent Canadian travel restrictions have targeted.
While Air Canada will be suspending flights on these routes, it is unlikely to limit travel to these destinations, as foreign airlines will continue to schedule flights to the affected regions.
Union Blames Government Restrictions
The additional layoffs Air Canada is making will now bring its active workforce to 20 thousand, roughly half of the 40 thousand which were employed before the pandemic.
WestJet, another Canadian airline carrier, has seen its workforce reduced to 3,500, down from 14 thousand pre-pandemic.
Subsequently, unions representing laid off workers called for government accountability.
Regarding the matter, President of the Air Canada component of CUPE, Wesley Lesosky stated:
“We appreciate the need for measures to prevent the spread of new variants of COVID-19 in Canada, but restrictions have to be accompanied by solutions. Instead of working with us, the government is working against us, and one year into this pandemic, Canada remains the only country in the G7 without a plan to help the airline sector weather the pandemic, and defend tens of thousands of good jobs.”
In a response to concerns that the restrictions are hurting workers, the government says that their decisions are made to support the well-being of workers and backed by science.
Accordingly, a spokesperson for Transport Canada, Allison St-Jean stated:
“We will never hesitate to take any actions necessary to protect the health and safety of Canadians.”
Air Canada also recently suspended all services of its low-cost subsidiary Rouge, due to the Canadian government’s request for it to suspend all flights to the Caribbean and Mexico. The halt of Rouge operations resulted in the temporarily layoff of about 80 employees.
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