Air Canada grounds its Boeing Max 8 fleet until July 1
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, March 19, 2019 9:33AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 19, 2019 12:39PM EDT
MONTREAL -- Air Canada has decided to remove its grounded Boeing 737 Max 8 jets from service until at least July 1 in order to provide more certainty for passengers that wish to book flights in the coming months.
Canada's largest airline announced Tuesday that it has taken several steps to adjust since the Max 8s were grounded last week by Transport Canada as part of an international response to the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane.
Among other things, Air Canada said it has substituted different aircraft in its fleet, chartered flights or leased aircraft from Air Transat, suspended some routes temporarily, and adjusted its rebooking policy for affected customers.
Air Canada said its adjusted schedule through to April 30 will cover 98 per cent of its planned flights.
It is also updating its May schedule to re-accommodate customers and optimize its fleet.
"The Boeing 737 Max accounted for six per cent of Air Canada's total flying, but there is a domino effect from removing the 737s from our fleet that impacts the schedule and ultimately will impact some customers," Air Canada executive vice-president Lucie Guillemette said in a statement.
"To bring certainty to our schedule for our customers when booking and travelling, we are revising our schedule until July and we have taken several steps to continue delivering substantially all of our planned capacity through our global network."
Among the routes suspended temporarily by Air Canada are flights from Halifax and St. John's, N.L., to London Heathrow.
Air Canada said it remains committed to these routes and will resume service as soon as possible. It's currently re-accommodating customers for those routes over its hubs in Montreal and Toronto.
It's also re-accommodating customers for its seasonal flights between Vancouver and Hawaii (Kona and Lihue) as well as between Calgary and Palm Springs, Calif.
Air Canada said it will notify customers by email, smart phone app, website and travel agencies if their flight times or numbers change.
Walter Spracklin of RBC Capital Markets says Air Canada's announcement that it can cover 98 of its fleet is positive "as it demonstrates the limited impact this disruption has on operations and the flexibility of Air Canada's fleet."
Airlines around the world have been working to redeploy their fleets since their Max 8s were grounded last week following the deadly crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight that killed all 157 people on board, including 18 Canadians.
Concerns have been raised regarding apparent similarities with a Lion Air flight involving the same aircraft that plunged into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff on Oct. 29, killing all 189 passengers and crew.
WestJet Airlines -- Canada's second-largest scheduled airline after Air Canada -- said Tuesday that it had accommodated more than 65,000 passengers that had been booked on its 13 Boeing 737 Max 8s through to the end of April.
"More than 85 per cent had little to no changes to their flight schedules," a WestJet spokeswoman said in an email.
"We are closely in contact with Boeing, Transport Canada and other regulators to understand how and when to safely reintroduce the Max aircraft into service."
Both WestJet and Air Canada have announced, since the Max 8s were grounded, that they are reconsidering their financial estimates for 2019.
Air Canada said Tuesday that it will accelerate the in-take of Airbus A321 aircraft that it recently acquired from Wow Airlines, which announced the four-plane sale in December.
It also said it has chartered one daily flight from Air Transat for the Vancouver-Montreal route until March 31, starting Wednesday. It has also leased an aircraft from Air Transat for the month of April to operate its Montreal-Cancun route.