Air Canada is cutting the number of flights across July and August by about 15% as it battles ongoing problems caused by labor shortages and supply chain issues. Late on Wednesday, a statement from Air Canada President Michael Rousseau confirmed that his airline was struggling to maintain normal operations and the level of service customers expect.
Air Canada bows to the inevitable and cuts flights this summer
Mr Rousseau says the rebound in travel demand has created unprecedented and unforeseen strains on all aspects of the global aviation system. It is an acknowledgment of a problem impacting airlines in neighboring United States, Europe, and elsewhere. A number of US airlines have trimmed their summer flying schedules for the same reasons that Air Canada is now doing.
“To bring about the level of operational stability we need, with reluctance, we are now making meaningful reductions to our schedule in July and August in order to reduce passenger volumes and flows to a level we believe the air transport system can accommodate,” wrote Mr Rousseau.
Air Canada says passengers can expect some frequency reductions primarily impacting evening and late-night routes serviced by smaller aircraft. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Simple Flying
What do “meaningful reductions” mean exactly? Air Canada told Simple Flying they are reducing their schedule, on average, by 77 round trips (or 154 flights) per day in total across July and August.
“Prior to this, Air Canada operated on average about 1,000 flights a day.” an Air Canada spokesperson said. “Most of the flights affected are to and from our Toronto and Montreal hubs. These will be mostly frequency reductions, affecting primarily evening and late-night flights by smaller aircraft on transborder and domestic routes. Our international flights are unaffected, with a few timing changes to reduce flying at peak times and even out the customer flow.”
Well, not quite all international flights will remain unaffected. Four Air Canada routes are getting paused temporarily, and two of those routes are into the US. Those routes going into hiatus are Montreal (YUL) – Pittsburgh (PIT); Montreal – Baltimore (BWI); Montreal – Kelowna (YLW); and Toronto (YYZ) – Fort McMurray (YMM). Air Canada hasn’t provided a firm restart date for these routes.
Air Canada’s President says he knows what the problems are, and is are working to sort them
Michael Rousseau’s lengthy letter touches on what’s causing the problems at Air Canada but avoids giving much detail. He acknowledges recurring flight delays and airport congestion which he says are occurring because of “a complex array of persistent factors impacting airlines and our partners in the aviation ecosystem.” It is an elegantly worded phrase that doesn’t really say much at all. Air Canada’s President says his airline anticipated and planned for many of these “persistent factors” but underestimated the scope and complexity of them. Fair enough, most other airlines did exactly the same thing.
“The result has been flight cancellations and customer service shortfalls on our part that we would never have intended for our customers or for our employees, and for which we sincerely apologize,” Mr Rousseau wrote.
Air Canada President and CEO Michael Rousseau. Photo: IATA
Last week, more than half of domestic flights to Canada’s major airports were canceled. Much of that has to do with labor shortages at airports where routine tasks such as baggage handling are starting to prove problematic. Big airports like Montreal Trudeau and Toronto Pearson are fast coming to the conclusion that the easiest way to solve the problem in the short term is to cut the number of flights in and out.
Problems at airports, which are largely beyond Air Canada’s control, are adding to the airline’s own internal issues, creating something of a perfect storm for Air Canada. Like many other airlines, Air Canada has decided the best immediate solution is to cut capacity. Michael Rousseau acknowledges doing so will inconvenience customers but says it is better to be proactive, upfront, and decisive.
“Doing this in advance allows affected customers to take time to make other arrangements in an orderly manner,” he wrote. “I want to assure you that we very clearly see the challenges at hand, that we are taking action, and that we are confident we have the strategy to address them.”