Air Canada is set to suspend flights to more cities amid a lack of demand for air travel in the pandemic.
By Jan. 23, Air Canada will cease flying to Prince Rupert, Kamloops, Fredericton, Yellowknife, and Gander and Goose Bay in Newfoundland.
Daniel-Robert Gooch, president of the Canadian Airports Council, said he was not surprised by Air Canada’s move, given the persistent lack of demand for air travel, and the worsening state of the pandemic.
“We’ve known from our member airports that this was going to happen,” Mr. Gooch said, adding he confirmed the suspensions with Air Canada.
“Our airlines have not been financially supported. Our airports continue to suffer. Air-traffic control continues to suffer,” Mr. Gooch said by phone. “We worry about the next few months, but we also worry about the long term.”
Canada’s airlines have laid off thousands of employees, grounded much of their fleets and slashed schedules by as much as 90 per cent. Toronto’s Porter Airlines has not flown since the pandemic took hold in March.
The federal government has advised Canadians not to travel unnecessarily, closed the border to most non-Canadians and imposed 14-day travel quarantines to slow the virus that has killed more than 17,000 people in Canada.
Air Canada did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Calin Rovinescu, Air Canada’s chief executive, said in November the carrier was prepared to stop service on 95 foreign and domestic routes and close nine Canadian regional airport operations to reduce losses. But Mr. Rovinescu held off making the cuts, saying he would wait to see how discussions with the federal government on financial aid progressed.
With no aid package forthcoming, Air Canada on Dec. 8 began cutting routes, and suspended all flights to Sydney, N.S., and Saint John by Jan. 11. In June, Air Canada pulled out of eight regional airports and suspended 30 domestic routes.
Calgary-based WestJet Airlines Ltd. said last week it is laying off 1,000 people in a combination of temporary layoffs, unpaid leaves and reduced hours, and slashing its schedule in February and March by 30 per cent. In October, the airline said it would suspend service in Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney, N.S., and Charlottetown, while reducing flights to Halifax and St. John’s.
Unlike most countries, Canada has not provided sector-specific aid to the aviation and travel sectors. Instead, the federal government has subsidized wages and offered loans.
Mr. Gooch warned much of the domestic industry will not survive to see the start of a recovery, which he says is at least several months away. Foreign airlines, buoyed by support from their government, will be positioned to fill the gap, he warned.
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