Air Transat

Porter and Transat to suspend operations

An Air Transat Airbus A321 departs Vancouver International Airport in June 2019 (photo: Brett Ballah).

Porter has become the first scheduled airline in Canada to suspend operations, in an announcement posted to its website Wednesday morning as a result of the COVID pandemic.

“Government actions make it apparent that restricting activities by people in all communities is what’s required to keep everyone healthy, and ultimately to end this fast-spreading pandemic,” said Porter President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Deluce in a letter posted on the company’s website.

“We are doing our part by temporarily suspending flights at the conclusion of the operating day on Friday, March 20. We will resume service on June 1. This time period allows the COVID-19 public health crisis to diminish and then time for us to effectively restart operations.”

Porter specialized in flying from its Toronto base to destinations in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes and to points in the northeastern United States.

Also Wednesday morning, Air Transat became the second Canadian charter airline to announce it would shut down and lay off most of its staff.

Transat’s decision follows a similar move by Sunwing.

“This is an unprecedented situation, beyond our control, which is forcing us to briefly suspend all of our flights to contribute to the effort to fight the pandemic, protect our customers and employees and safeguard the company,” said Transat President and Chief Executive Officer Jean-Marc Eustache.

While Transat has not said how many employees will be affected, though it employs 5,000 people. Porter has a little less than 1,000.

When paired with staff reductions to come as Westjet and Air Canada cut flights and withdraw services, the number laid off airline employees in Canada will likely be in the tens of thousands by the end of the week.

Unions are calling for immediate help for people affected by the collapse in demand for airline services.