One of the world’s largest integrated tour operators has been grounded since April 1
Canada’s Transat, one of the world’s largest tour operators said it plans to resume operations July 23, 15 weeks after they were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After these long months that put the entire tourism industry to the test, we are very happy to announce today the resumption of our operations,” said Annick Guérard, Chief Operating Officer of Transat. “We will gradually operate a flight schedule with 23 international routes to Europe, the South and the United States, in addition to a domestic flight schedule between major Canadian cities.”
The company made the announcement Thursday as it reported a $23 million loss in the second quarter attributing the loss to the pandemic.
Air Transat plans to resume operations from Montreal to Athens, Bordeaux, Lisbon, Lyon, Nantes, Marseille, Paris, and Toulouse. It will add flights from Toronto to Athens, Glasgow, London, Manchester, Porto, and Rome.
It will also fly to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, and Florida.
Flights to 26 international destinations will remain suspended, as will international service from Vancouver and Quebec City. A limited domestic schedule linking Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal would also resume, the airline said. All flights will be operated by brand-new Airbus A321neo long-range aircraft.
Transat announced the grounding of its planes in mid-March, hammered by governments closing their borders and ordering citizens to stay home. The company has survived by laying off 85% of its staff and putting those still on the payroll on a federal wage subsidy which covers salaries up to $847 a week without a work requirement.
The airline and tour operator has agreed to be taken over by Air Canada, in a $720 million dollar deal. Canada’s Transport Minister is reviewing the deal to see whether it is in the public interest, and the European Commission has ordered an in-depth review because of the deal’s negative effect on trans-Atlantic competition.
Transat said Thursday that if it is allowed to proceed, the merger will not happen until the fourth quarter of 2020, given the delays, but cannot be extended beyond December 27.
Together, Air Canada and Transat would control more than half of the market between Canada and Europe, based on data provided by Transat. That market concentration rises to two-thirds when Air Canada’s Star Alliance partners are included. The European Commission said it does not expect Westjet, despite its global ambitions, to be a significant enough presence to provide serious competition.
“The impact of the pandemic reversed a very strong start to the first half of the year,” the company said. In the first six months of the year, Transat lost $213 million, blaming a revenue drop of $281 million and millions in charges due to low fuel prices and foreign exchange.
Transat said the pandemic made it impossible to predict the impact of its service resumption or how popular the flights might be.
“We are seeing more bookings than cancellations, so that’s already positive,” said Transat Chief Operating Officer Annick Guérard.
“The first one that we are expecting and waiting for impatiently is Canada,” she said. “As we see borders being released, we will adapt our changes.”
Canadian airlines have been predicting domestic service is more likely to return to some form of normal before international travel, a view Transat shares, though executives say their airline is well poised to take advantage of the “visiting friends and relatives” market.
The carrier said its plans could still be adjusted in light of border restrictions and health measures imposed on travellers. It also pointed to a possible increase in service in September and October if things go well.
Transat said travellers who book will be able to change their plans free of charge up to 24 hours before their flight and can cancel their bookings and receive a credit good for 12 months. It did not say what would happen if the carrier was forced to cancel the flight.