Canadian airlines cancel flights again as hoped-for rebound in demand falters

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Rachel Farrell can now claim the unfortunate distinction of having two destination marriages annulled in one year.The 26-year-old event coordinator had booked a Transat flight out of Halifax for February 15, 2021, as part of her planned nuptials in the Dominican Republic, but was told this week that the airline had canceled the trip and would not. the trip up to six days later.

She and her fiance first booked their travel package for April, but it was refused by Transat after the airline grounded its entire fleet due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The problem is becoming more common, with Canadian airlines canceling hundreds of flights as hopes of increased demand fall flat, scolding the plans of the few remaining passengers.

“I was upset, but I understood that it was not Air Transat’s fault, so we would wait for air travel to resume and book as soon as possible, since refunds were not an option,” he said. said Farrell.

She did so in July, changing the flight reservation for February to use a travel credit based on the $ 37,000 she and her nearly two dozen guests had paid for the package.

“Even though they knowingly chose to cancel my modified wedding group, they still won’t refund us,” Farrell said, noting that the airline is offering credit again.

Rachel Farrell and her fiance, Josh Dunn, were planning to tie the knot in the Dominican Republic last April, but their flight was canceled due to the pandemic. The airline has now canceled its new February 2021 flight date (Rachel Farrell / The Canadian Press)

“My travel agent told me that even if I change my reservation next week, they might still push the dates further… I don’t know what to do now, and all I really want is to get married . ”

Air Canada and WestJet have canceled at least 439 flights so far this month, according to figures from flight data company Cirium.

The cancellations come after airlines banked on the return of business travel and a continued increase in leisure travel in the fall, said John Gradek, who heads McGill University’s Global Aviation Leadership program.

“They have decided since the end of July to free themselves from regular services and increase the number of routes, at the same time hoping that the government will relax some of its restrictions. And that’s not the case, ”he said. .

Now airlines are canceling half-booked flights and regrouping passengers on the remaining flights to cut costs.

“The Canadian traveling public hasn’t used the seats offered by the carriers, so they’re drastically cutting back on those services… and it’s done piecemeal rather than wholesale,” Gradek told me.

Demand has stifled

The disappointment builds on an already devastating year.

Transat’s revenues fell 99% year over year in the last quarter, when the travel company operated flights for just one week.

Air Canada saw passenger revenues drop 95%, resulting in 20,000 layoffs as the airline spent $ 19 million a day. WestJet has laid off about 4,000 employees since March.

Air traffic in August fell by two-thirds from a year earlier, according to Nav Canada, which operates air navigation across the country.

Consolidating flights does not always lead to reversed plans or marriage dilemmas.

“Sometimes airline schedules require minor surgery and sometimes major surgery,” said Mike Malik, Marketing Manager at Cirium.

Rerouting can sometimes mean a departure delay of an hour rather than a week.

“We know that most travelers today are not business travelers,” said Malik. “They are VFR travelers – visiting friends and relatives. So if you’re visiting friends and relatives, you probably don’t need a 7am flight for a 9am meeting in Toronto. ”

The solace comes as cold comfort to Darlene Hatter, who was twice scheduled to attend her son’s destination wedding in Costa Rica, with both flights from Toronto now canceled.

Her son, Robert Przybylski, 35, is now at $ 15,000, along with the $ 2,800 each of her 85 guests has paid, she said.

“It’s very frustrating,” Hatter said.

“The airlines, in my opinion, are taking a big advantage of this and trampling on the little people just because they can. The government has to step in and tell these airlines to reimburse people. “

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