General aviation

Air Canada releases ambitious December schedule


Air Canada reinstates a number of routes starting December 1 including a return to Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport

Both domestic and international routes see a boost with one caveat: the schedule remains subject to change based on demand and government regulations

Air Canada December
An Air Canada Boeing 777 departs Vancouver International Airport in September 2019 (photo: Brett Ballah).

Air Canada has released an ambitious December schedule that triples its domestic flights from the early summer, reintroduces to communities dropped at the pandemic’s outset, and massively expands the airline’s international reach.

Air Canada’s schedule for December and January – what usually covers the busy Christmas season – shows almost 4,000 domestic flights per week. For comparison, in June, Air Canada offered only 1,300 weekly flights. In May, it was just 706 – barely 100 flights a day.

Toronto, as expected, will be the busiest Air Canada cities. Canada’s largest airport will see more than 100 daily departures within Canada. In addition, there will be dozens of flights every day to the U.S., the Caribbean, Mexico, South America, Europe, and Asia. The increase comes despite Toronto’s recent announcement that it will raise the Airport Improvement Fee charged to passengers.

Vancouver will be the second-busiest domestic city, followed by Montreal, Calgary, and Edmonton and Ottawa.

CityWeekly Air Canada Domestic Departures
Edmonton / Ottawa182
Air Canada weekly departures by city, effective December 1.

Also notable in the December schedule update is a return to many domestic routes dropped in March. Edmonton sees the largest route increase, with the addition of flights to Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Kelowna, Ottawa, and Winnipeg.

Ottawa, which has often seen fewer than 20 daily flights through the pandemic, will see the return of flights to Edmonton, Quebec City, Winnipeg, and the U.S.

Large increase to the United States

Despite the pandemic raging south of the border, Air Canada plans to return to many of its U.S. destinations in the coming months. Houston, Miami, Las Vegas, and Honolulu are among the cities returning to the Air Canada route map.

The increase in transborder flying projects a measure of confidence – and perhaps hope – by Air Canada. The border remains closed to most leisure travel. The Canadian government also continues to advise against all but essential travel outside the country because of COVID-19. Anyone entering Canada has to quarantine for 14 days, a measure Air Canada is hoping to reduce.

Most Canadian cities that had U.S. service before the pandemic will see flights restored. Notable exceptions include Halifax and Edmonton.

Air Canada built an empire before the pandemic by connecting U.S. passengers with its trans-Atlantic routes. The pandemic sent the strategy crashing to Earth.

Figures released Wednesday by OAG, an aviation data analysis firm, showed Air Canada’s October schedule was down 75% compared to 2019. That ranked second in the world among major airlines, behind only Easyjet. Statistics Canada said that passenger traffic was down almost 90% in July, the most recent data available.

“Outside of China and, to a lesser extent, Japan, airlines continue to operate a fraction of the capacity that they did a year ago although capacity for most is slightly above last months’ levels, in part due to October having 31 days, 1 day more than September,” read the analysis.

Canada-U.S. capacity, said OAG, was off 93% in October, the most among any two countries in the world.

Overseas boost

Air Canada is also boosting its sun destination schedule in December. It is reintroducing service 40 destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean just in time for the Canadian winter. Air Canada’s leisure brand, Rouge, has been grounded since March, though the sun routes suggest it will be returning. The company has not made any formal announcement about Rouge’s future.

Air Canada has taken an aggressive stand in dealing with the pandemic. It is offering free COVID insurance coverage to people who book before the end of October. It has also worked with Toronto-Pearson to gather data suggesting two-week quarantines are too long.

And the airline announced Wednesday it is exploring wearable technology to improve contact tracing among its staff.

“The health and safety of our employees is of paramount concern to Air Canada and is key to restoring our operations safely for our customers,” said Samuel Elfassy, Vice President, Safety at Air Canada. “Air Canada has embraced a science-based approach to managing COVID-19 and as part of this has committed to evaluate the use of new technologies like TraceSCAN’s wearables.”

The technology uses bluetooth to warn people if they’ve been in close proximity with someone who became infected with COVID-19.

While you’re here

Western Aviation News needs your help.

We’re an independent voice for and about Canadian aviation. We keep the site free to share our passion with the world.

We survive thanks to the support of readers like you.