Air Canada announced that, in light of the current pandemic and increasingly low demand for flights, the airline will be suspending some flights to sun destinations from January 24 until April 30, 2022.
Flights to the following destinations will be affected: Antigua, Aruba, Samaná, Curaçao, Exuma, Grenada, Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo, Bermuda, Grand Cayman, Havana, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
The press release notes that “To help ensure that Canadians are not stranded abroad, Air Canada plans to operate a number of one-way commercial flights from affected destinations in order to return customers at the suspended destinations to Canada.
Any travellers affected by the temporary suspension of the above listed destinations will be issued a full refund. Our team will be contacting any impacted customers and processing refunds in order of departure date. Eligible customers will receive an invoice as confirmation of their refund once it has been issued.
Please note that existing travel restrictions, including providing proof of vaccination and of a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding an international flight bound for Canada, are still in effect. It is your responsibility to ensure that you – and any child travelling with you – have all the valid travel documents required for re-entry into Canada. Please visit the Government of Canada website for more details.”
Air Canada is not the only Canadian airline finding it difficult to fill flights due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant and shrinking demand for travel. Just a few days ago, WestJet cancelled 15% of its flights. WestJet announced via Twitter that it would be cancelling flights because of the Covid-19 variant Omicron. The tweet stated that: We have made the difficult decision to consolidate approximately 15 percent of scheduled flights through to Jan. 31, 2022, due to the accelerating impact of Omicron.
In a follow-up press release, Harry Taylor, WestJet, Interim President & CEO stated that “Over the past 72 hours, we have seen a significant increase in delays and cancellations impacting our business. As we work to stabilize our operation to best serve our guests, we understand this has been immensely challenging and frustrating and for that we apologize.
We could not have anticipated the rapid and unpredictable impact of the Omicron variant on our people and operations, coupled with prolonged frigid temperatures across Western Canada and global staffing shortages. Despite all contingency planning, in addition to hiring back thousands of WestJetters to safely support peak operations, we find ourselves no longer able to predictably resource our planned schedule due to Omicron impact and have made the difficult decision to consolidate approximately 15 percent of scheduled flights through to January 31, 2022.”
There have also been numerous flight cancellations from other airlines, including Air Transat, which is said to be reducing flight capacity by as much as 30% until the end of February.
The reduction in travel demand was undoubtedly affected by the Canadian government’s recently reinstated travel advisory against all nonessential international travel because of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. The current advisory will last for at least four weeks but could be extended.