Air Canada cuts more routes due to lack of demand

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Air Canada is set to suspend flights to more cities due to lack of demand for air travel during the pandemic.

By January 23, Air Canada will stop flying to Prince Rupert, Kamloops, Fredericton, Yellowknife and Gander and Goose Bay in Newfoundland.

Daniel-Robert Gooch, chairman of the Canadian Airports Council, said he was not surprised by Air Canada’s decision, given the persistent lack of demand for air travel and the worsening pandemic.

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“We knew from our member airports that this was coming,” said Gooch, adding that he had confirmed the suspensions with Air Canada.

“Our airlines have not received financial support. Our airports continue to suffer. Air traffic control continues to suffer, ”Gooch said by telephone. “We’re worried about the next few months, but we’re also worried about the long term.”

Canadian airlines have laid off thousands of employees, grounded much of their fleets and cut schedules by up to 90%. Porter Airlines of Toronto has not flown since the pandemic took hold and March.

The federal government has advised Canadians not to travel unnecessarily, closed the border to most non-Canadians, and imposed 14-day travel quarantines to slow the virus that has killed more than 17,000 people in Canada.

Air Canada did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Calin Rovinescu, chief executive of Air Canada, said in November the carrier was prepared to interrupt service on 95 foreign and domestic routes and close nine regional Canadian airports to reduce losses. But Mr Rovinescu delayed the cuts, saying he would wait to see how talks with the federal government over financial aid progressed.

With no upcoming assistance program, Air Canada began cutting routes on December 8 and suspended all flights to Sydney, Nova Scotia, and Saint John before January 11. In June, Air Canada pulled out of eight regional airports and suspended 30 domestic routes.

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Calgary-based WestJet Airlines Ltd. said last week it was laying off 1,000 people in a combination of temporary layoffs, unpaid time off and reduced hours, and slashing its schedule in February and March by 30%. In October, the airline announced it would suspend service to Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney, NS and Charlottetown, while reducing flights to Halifax and St. John’s.

Unlike most countries, Canada has not provided sectoral assistance to the aviation and travel sectors. Instead, the federal government subsidized wages and provided loans.

Mr Gooch warned that much of the domestic industry would not survive to see the start of a recovery, which he said is at least several months away. Foreign airlines, backed by support from their government, will be able to fill the void, he warned.

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