Air Canada said Tuesday that due to Transport Canada's continued closure of Canadian airspace to the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, it has further adjusted its schedule through to the end of June.
The carrier anticipates it will cover 98 per cent of previously planned flying for the month through a series of mitigation measures, schedule changes and temporary route suspensions.
"Air Canada assures its customers that we are doing everything possible to mitigate the effects of the 737 MAX grounding and we appreciate our customers' patience and flexibility as we continue to work on transporting them safely to their destinations,” said Lucie Guillemette, executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Air Canada, in a press release. “By adjusting our schedule for the month of May, we are providing certainty for our customers so they can continue to book and travel with confidence on Air Canada.
In compliance with the safety notice issued by Transport Canada on March 13, Air Canada grounded its fleet of 24 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Boeing has advised that deliveries of its 737 MAX are currently suspended. Air Canada was expecting six new aircraft in March and April.
Air Canada is now updating its June schedule to optimize its fleet and re-accommodate customers. Because the timeline for the return to service of the 737 MAX is unknown, for planning purposes and to provide customers certainty for booking and travel, Air Canada has removed 737 MAX flying from its schedule until at least July 1, 2019. Final decisions on returning the 737 MAX to service will be based on Air Canada's safety assessment following the lifting of government safety notices and approval by international regulatory authorities.
Among the measures taken by Air Canada:
To mitigate the impact, Air Canada has been substituting different aircraft on 737 MAX routes. This includes flying routes with similar-sized or larger aircraft. To help provide this replacement flying, the carrier has extended leases for aircraft which were scheduled to exit the fleet. Air Canada is also accelerating the in-take of recently acquired Airbus A321 aircraft from WOW Air into its fleet.
Working with partner airlines
Air Canada has worked with other carriers to provide immediate extra capacity and provide alternative options to passengers. For example, its Montreal-Frankfurt flight for the month of May will be operated by Star Alliance partner Lufthansa.
Schedule changes until June 30
The airline has implemented a number of route changes to date, either changing operating times or substituting larger aircraft with fewer frequencies on routes operated more frequently by smaller aircraft. For example, beginning in May two daily flights between Toronto and Calgary have been consolidated onto one larger Airbus A330, leaving nine daily flights.
In some cases, seasonal route launches have been delayed. This includes Toronto-Portland, which will now start July 1 instead of May 24, Vancouver-Boston, which will now start June 16 instead of June 1, and Calgary-Halifax, which will now start July 1 instead of May 18. The seasonal start of the carrier's Toronto-Shannon route and new Montreal-Bordeaux service will both be delayed until early July.
In addition, selected frequencies on domestic routes such as Toronto-Edmonton, will be served by Air Canada Rouge aircraft.
In a small number of cases, Air Canada has temporarily suspended service on certain 737 MAX routes where alternative aircraft are not presently available. This includes flights from Halifax and St. John's to London Heathrow, for which it is re-accommodating customers over its Toronto and Montreal hubs. These routes are now suspended to May 31, but Air Canada remains committed to these routes.
As changes are finalized in the flight schedule, customers whose flight times or flight numbers have changed can expect to receive an email detailing their updated itinerary. This information is also available in My Bookings on the Air Canada app or Air Canada website. Customers are advised, whether they have booked directly through Air Canada or not, to ensure their contact information is on their booking to facilitate communication of any flight changes.
Air Canada has put in place a flexible rebooking policy with full fee waiver and a refund option for affected customers. Customers originally scheduled to travel on a 737 MAX can call Air Canada at 1-833-354-5963 for information within 72 hours of their planned flight. Customers who have booked flights through a travel agent should contact them for immediate assistance.
Customers are further advised to check the status of their flight using the Flight Status function on the Air Canada app or at aircanada.com prior to going to the airport. Additional information, including specific changes to the April and May 737 MAX operation is provided at the special page, Update on flights operated by the Boeing 737 MAX, available at aircanada.com that will be updated as warranted.