After Sunwing became the first North American airline to ground its fleet of four Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft late Tuesday, Westjet and Air Canada were left among a dwindling number of airlines still operating the type in this country.
Despite moves in many parts of the world, including China, Australia and the European Union to ground the Max, Canada’s national scheduled airlines have kept their fleet of 37 Max 8s in the air, with the blessing of regulators.
So where are those planes going? Western Aviation News examined the posted schedules for both Air Canada and Westjet on Wednesday, March 13.
Already, we know Air Canada cancelled two planned operations to London Heathrow from Halifax and St. John’s due to a decision by the United Kingdom to ground Max aircraft.
Despite that setback, both Westjet and Air Canada are increasingly turning to the Max 8 to get Canadians where they want to go. Air Canada has ordered a total of 61 Max aircraft, of which 24 have been delivered and Westjet has ordered 55, of which it has received 13.
In all, the two carriers plan 90 Max flights Wednesday, from Vancouver in the west to St. John’s in the east, and from Edmonton in the north, to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, in the south. If all the seats were filled, that would allow more than 15,000 people to travel on a scheduled Canadian Max in just 24 hours.
MAP: Scheduled operations for Air Canada and Westjet March 13, 2019. Click on an airport for more details or on a route to see what is planned.
Westjet plans 34 flights, centred largely around its Calgary hub, along with flights from Toronto to Florida.
Air Canada plans 56 flights, based generally at the airline’s three hubs in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, along with a smattering of other services.
The longest route, an Air Canada flight from Calgary to Maui, clocks in at 4,979 km, more than seven hours non-stop (there are four flights in all to Hawaii). The shortest also belongs to Air Canada, from Toronto to Montreal, a mere 509 km.
Twelve cities in the United States will see Canadian Max 8 operations, two in Mexico (from Vancouver), and two in the Caribbean. Westjet and Air Canada will also operate eight domestic routes, though since the flights are between cities with frequent service, the Max 8 represents a fraction of the available seats.
The busiest route is between Vancouver and Calgary, with a combined total of 12 flights. The next busiest Max route is between Calgary and Palm Springs, with eight flights. Other routes with multiple services Wednesday include Calgary-Toronto (six), Edmonton-Toronto (six) and Montreal-Los Angeles (four).
Transport Minister Marc Garneau, who as recently as Tuesday said he would not hesitate to fly on a Max aircraft, plans an update on operations Wednesday in Ottawa.