Route and city suspensions announced at the outset of the pandemic have been made indefinite
On the eve of Canada Day, Air Canada delivered some unhappy news to eight communities in Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada, closing eight stations and suspending service on 30 domestic routes in a move meant to stem mounting losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Four of the stations being closed are in Quebec, two in Ontario, one in New Brunswick, and one in Labrador.
Communities losing Air Canada service:
- Wabush, Newfoundland and Labrador
- Bathurst, New Brunswick
- Gaspé, Quebec
- Baie-Comeau, Quebec
- Mont-Joli, Quebec
- Val d’Or, Quebec
- Kingston, Ontario
- North Bay, Ontario
“The COVID-19 crisis and provincial and federal government-imposed travel restrictions and border closures are having a significant negative effect on passenger demand for Canadian air travel,” said Joe Randell, President and Chief Executive Officer, Chorus in a statement. Chorus conducts the lion’s share of regional flying for Air Canada, including 21 of the cancelled routes. “I am saddened by the impact today’s announcement will have on our employees, suppliers and the affected communities, but respect and understand the difficult choice our partner, Air Canada, has had to make.”
Randell predicted last month that regional flying would lead aviation’s reboot in Canada as people visited friends and family and felt more comfortable flying shorter distances.
At the pandemic’s outset, Air Canada drastically curtailed its international and domestic services, cutting thousands of flights each week and suspending service to 11 cities within Canada. Rival Westjet maintained service to all 38 Canadian cities in its network, though with drastically reduced schedules.
Most of the routes being suspended are regional routes in Eastern Canada, though a few longer routes are being dropped, such as service between Saskatchewan and Ottawa.
“These structural changes to Air Canada’s domestic regional network are being made as a result of continuing weak demand for both business and leisure travel due to COVID-19 and provincial and federal government-imposed travel restrictions and border closures, which are diminishing prospects for a near-to-mid-term recovery,” Air Canada said in a statement.
Below: Map shows Air Canada indefinitely suspended cities (with black x marks) and routes.
Air Canada said the move is meant to cut costs, and further cuts are expected. “Other changes to its network and schedule, as well as further service suspensions, will be considered over the coming weeks as the airline takes steps to decisively reduce its overall cost structure and cash burn rate,” the company said in a statement.
Air Canada reported in May that it lost $1 billion in the first quarter, and was burning through $20 million every day. In response to domestic demand, Air Canada has increased domestic service for the summer, though it is a far cry from what the airline offered in 2019. It has also reintroduced limited cross-border service to the United States and a few routes overseas.
The airline has cut more than half of its staff, raised $5.5 billion in stock sales and loans, retired 79 aircraft from its fleet, and expects its capacity to be down 75% this summer compared to last year.
Air Canada expects its recovery from the pandemic to take at least three years.