This story was updated on Wednesday, January 5 at 6:10 p.m. EST
Nino Montagnese, vice-president, Air Canada Vacations, released a letter to travel partners on Wednesday (Jan. 5), confirming that the resurgence of COVID-19 and new government regulations has led to “unavoidable disruptions” to Air Canada’s flight schedule from Jan. 24 to April 30, 2022.
“At first glance, 2022 can be mistaken for its predecessor,” Montagnese wrote. “Omicron ushered in a wave of renewed uncertainty that coincided with the holidays and impacted our industry yet again.”
The full list of affected destinations is listed here.
The suspended destinations include Antigua, Aruba, Samaná, Curaçao, Exuma, Grenada, Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo, Bermuda, Grand Cayman, Havana, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
To ensure that Canadians are not stranded abroad, Air Canada plans to operate a number of one-way commercial flights from affected destinations in order to return customers at the suspended destinations to Canada.
Those travellers affected by the temporary suspension of the above listed destinations will be issued a full refund, the airline says.
“Our team will be contacting any impacted customers and processing refunds in order of departure date. Eligible customers will receive an invoice as confirmation of their refund once it has been issued," the notice reads.
For files with Air Canada Vacations affected by the destination suspensions, travel agent commissions will be protected to a maximum of five per cent, according to an updated FAQ released on Wednesday afternoon.
“You’ll be receiving an email later today if your clients’ vacation is cancelled as a result of a destination suspension, informing you of the impacted bookings,” Montagnese wrote in his letter.
He said the changes will impact just seven per cent of customers, “and we’ve maintained operations to 23 Sun destinations throughout the winter season.”
“The challenges of this new year are not unprecedented,” he wrote. “Based on the lessons learned in 2021, we’ve implemented the necessary policies and procedures to help our industry weather the storm. The goodwill policy we introduced last spring guarantees a refund to any customer whose vacation is cancelled by Air Canada Vacations. This was more than a gesture; it was a way to rebuild Canadians’ confidence in travel and encourage the bookings we all need to recover.”
ACV has also restored a level of comfort thanks to its CareFlex travel protection plan and the COVID-19 coverage offered through Allianz Global Assurance.
A “molehill, not a mountain"
Montagnese said that unlike the heavy restrictions that kicked off 2021, this latest setback is a “molehill, not a mountain.”
“And this year is nothing like the last. We’re stronger, wiser and well-prepared to manage the potential effects of COVID-19.”
He added: “Despite the uncertainty created by a new variant, we’re seeing that people are planning their vacations and following through with them.”
“This is a fresh start bolstered by a slew of lessons. We’ve become familiar with the ebbs and flows of the pandemic now.
“Although we may feel trepidation when our déjà vu is triggered, we should see it instead as a sign of how far we’ve come."
"Pandemic travel is no longer extraordinary – it’s a reality that we’re well-prepared for. We’ve got this.”