Ongoing disruptions in air travel have forced Air Canada to make “meaningful reductions” to its summer flight schedule, according to reports.
Due to “unprecedented and unforeseen strains” on all aspects of aviation, Canada’s flag carrier will reduce its schedule by 77 round trips — or 154 flights — on average, each day during the months of July and August.
The update was confirmed by Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick in a statement to CBC News on Wednesday (June 29).
Prior to the reductions, Air Canada was operating about 1,000 flights per day, the airline says.
The plan is to temporarily suspend three routes between Montreal and Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Kelowna and one from Toronto to Fort McMurray, Fitzpatrick said, but "most" flights impacted are ones out of Toronto and Montreal
"These will be mostly frequency reductions, affecting primarily evening and late-night flights by smaller aircraft, on transborder and domestic routes," Fitzpatrick said.
But "international flights are unaffected, with a few timing changes to reduce flying at peak times and even out the customer flow.”
Michael Rousseau, Air Canada’s president and CEO, issued a statement on Wednesday to address the situation.
"Regrettably, things are not business as usual in our industry globally, and this is affecting our operations and our ability to serve you with our normal standards of care," Rousseau wrote in a note that was later emailed to Aeroplan members.
"The COVID‑19 pandemic brought the world air transport system to a halt in early 2020. Now, after more than two years, global travel is resurgent, and people are returning to flying at a rate never seen in our industry."
Rousseau said the airline continues to deal with “customer service shortfalls,” despite detailed and careful planning and the "largest and fastest scale of hiring in the company's history."
He noted that it was “not an easy decision” to reduce the schedule as the move will “have a negative impact on some customers.”
"But doing this in advance allows affected customers to take time to make other arrangements in an orderly manner, rather than have their travel disrupted shortly before or during their journey, with few alternatives available,” Rousseau said.
The "meaningful reductions" Air Canada is making this summer will “reduce passenger volumes and flows to a level we believe the air transport system can accommodate," the CEO said.
"We are convinced these changes will bring about the improvements we have targeted. But to set expectations, it should also be understood the real benefits of this action will take time and be felt only gradually as the industry regains the reliability and robustness it had attained prior to the pandemic."
Rousseau offered his "sincere apologies" and assured customers that "we very clearly see the challenges at hand, that we are taking action, and that we are confident we have the strategy to address them."
"This is our company's chief focus at every level," he stated.
Air Canada's stock fell seven per cent in early morning trading Thursday following the news.
The airline's shares fell $1.27 or 7.4 per cent to $15.80 before rebounding a little, deepening a decline from more than $21 per share at the start of the month.
Cancellations & delays
The update comes after earlier media reports revealed that more than half of flights flying in and out of Canada’s largest airports are being delayed cancelled, according to recent data compiled by Fredericton, N.B-based company DataWazo.
On Wednesday, the CEO of the Montreal-Trudeau Airport – where Air Canada plans to reduce some flights – told CTV News Montreal that the airport was already in talks with airlines to reduce schedules.
“We're having discussions and it's likely the frequencies — the number of flights we'll have on a given destination — or destinations themselves,” Philippe Rainville said, noting that a staffing shortage at the airport is causing issues, specifically in loading and unloading luggage from planes.
The announcement comes on the same day that the Government of Canada announced that it will extend current border measures for travellers entering Canada until at least Sept. 30, 2022.
In addition, the pause of mandatory random testing (first announced June 11) will continue at all airports “until mid-July” for travellers who qualify as fully vaccinated, officials said.
The decision was made so airports could focus on streamlining their operations amid an increase in passenger traffic.
The government, meanwhile, will move forward with moving COVID-19 testing for air travellers outside of airports to “test provider stores, pharmacies or by virtual appointment.”
Travellers who are not fully vaccinated (unless exempt) must continue to test on day one and day eight of their 14-day quarantine, officials said.