Air Canada to make ‘meaningful reductions’ to summer flight schedule

Air Canada will cut dozens of daily flights this summer as the airline grapples with a series of challenges amid soaring demand for travel.

“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,” Michael Rousseau, the airline’s president and CEO, said in a statement released Wednesday.

“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 those factors are causing “unprecedented and unforeseen strains on all aspects of the global aviation system,” leading to flight delays and crowded airport spaces.

And it’s also spurring the airline to make “meaningful reductions” to its summer schedule “in order to reduce passenger volumes and flows to a level we believe the air transport system can accommodate,” he said.

Dozens of fewer round trips each day

Peter Fitzpatrick, an airline spokesperson, told CBC News that the changes would see Air Canada reduce its schedule by 77 round trips — or 154 flights — on average, each day during the months of July and August.

A lineup at the Pearson airport customer service desk after many cancellations.
A photo taken Sunday at the customer service desk at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport gives a glimpse of some of the long lineups air travellers have been facing lately. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Prior to these reductions, the airline was operating about 1,000 flights per day.

“Three routes will be temporarily suspended between Montreal and Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Kelowna and one from Toronto to Fort McMurray,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick said “most” flights affected by the changes are out of its Toronto and Montreal hubs.

“These will be mostly frequency reductions, affecting primarily evening and late-night flights by smaller aircraft, on transborder and domestic routes,” he said.

But he said “international flights are unaffected, with a few timing changes to reduce flying at peak times and even out the customer flow.”

‘Not an easy decision’

Rousseau, the airline president, said Air Canada did what it could to prepare for these challenges, but it has to adjust its operations to the current circumstances.

“This was not an easy decision, as it will result in additional flight cancellations that will have a negative impact on some customers,” Rousseau said.

“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 offered his “sincere apologies” to customers for any delays they have faced or will face.

“I also assure you 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,” he said. “This is our company’s chief focus at every level.”

A majority of domestic flights have been delayed at some of the country’s busiest airports in recent days, according to the analytics firm Data Wazo.

Data Wazo says 54 per cent of flights to six large airports — Montreal, Calgary, Toronto’s Pearson and Billy Bishop airports, Ottawa and Halifax — were bumped off schedule in the seven days between June 22 and 28.

Some 38 per cent of the flights were delayed while 16 per cent were scrapped altogether.

Airlines and the federal government have been scrambling to respond to scenes of endless lines, flight disruptions and daily turmoil at airports — particularly at Pearson — a problem the aviation industry has blamed on a shortage of federal security and customs officers.

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