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Air Canada ending service to 8 cities, suspending 30 regional routes
TORONTO -- Air Canada is indefinitely suspending dozens of domestic flight routes as the airline struggles to fill seats during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The airline announced Tuesday that it would end service to eight domestic cities and cancel 30 regional routes due to weak demand for both business and leisure travel in the midst of government-imposed travel restrictions and border closures.
In a statement, Air Canada said it expects the airline industry will take a minimum of three years to recover from the effects of the pandemic.
“As a consequence, 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 sent to CTV News, Transport Minister Marc Garneau called the airline's decision an "unfortunate development."
"This decision by Air Canada will be very disappointing to the residents and communities affected by these service cuts. We understand the impact this will have on many Canadians across the country and we continue to work with Canadian airlines and airports during this challenging time," Garneau said in the statement.
Airports set to lose routes have also expressed disappointment in the decision.
Tiffany Chase, a spokesperson with Halifax Stanfield International Airport, told CTV News that “these interregional connections are very important to maintain [an] essential transport network and provides our travellers with more choice and opportunity.”
Three flight routes to Halifax are disappearing. Regina has also been hit by Air Canada’s decision, losing three routes as well.
James Bogusz, President and CEO of the Regina International Airport, said that this will have a financial impact on the airports themselves.
“We are heading towards having to draw on our line of credit at around September, maybe early October,” he told CTV News. “It’s a really challenging situation. So any lost flights’ revenue is another blow to the airport.”
Air Canada reported a net loss of $1.05 billion in the first quarter of 2020, including a net loss of $688 million in March alone.
Earlier this month, Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu was one of more than 130 signatories to an open letter calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the country’s premiers to loosen travel restrictions as the industry struggles to stay afloat.
In May, Air Canada predicted it would lose nearly $20 million per day in the second quarter as a result of pandemic border shutdowns. In response, the airline has reduced its workforce by approximately 20,000 employees, representing more than 50 per cent of its staff, through layoffs, severances, early retirements, and special leaves.
Starting tomorrow, they will also be booking middle seats on flights again, ending their policy on physical distancing in an attempt to pack planes once more.
Here is a list of the Air Canada routes that will be suspended indefinitely. The airline said they will contact affected customers and offer them options, such as alternative routings where available.
MARITIMES/NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
- Deer Lake-Goose Bay
- Deer Lake-St. John's
- Saint John-Halifax
- Gander-Goose Bay
- Gander-St. John's
- Wabush-Goose Bay
- Goose Bay-St. John's
QUEBEC AND ONTARIO
- Baie Comeau-Montreal
- Baie Comeau-Mont Joli
- Gaspé-Iles de la Madeleine
- Gaspé-Quebec City
- Sept-Iles-Quebec City
- Val d'Or-Montreal
- Mont Joli-Montreal
- Rouyn-Noranda-Val d'Or
- North Bay-Toronto
Here is a list of regional airports where Air Canada will be closing its stations.
- Bathurst (New Brunswick)
- Wabush (Newfoundland and Labrador)
- Gaspé (Quebec)
- Baie Comeau (Quebec)
- Mont Joli (Quebec)
- Val d'Or (Quebec)
- Kingston (Ontario)
- North Bay (Ontario)
Air Canada boasts more refund-related customer complaints made to the U.S. Department of Transportation than any other non-U.S. airline. In April, Air Canada was at the centre of 969 customer complaints made about non-U.S. carriers — or 13 per cent of the 7,568 complaints made that month.
The airline also ranks third for refund complaints made about any carrier, behind United Airlines and American Airlines.
With files from CTV News' Rachel Gilmore, Alexandra Mae Jones and The Canadian Press