Responding to increased COVID-19 restrictions put in place in Canada, Air Canada said it will reduce 25% of its planned capacity for the balance of the 2021 first quarter, driving its schedule down to just 20% of what the carrier was flying in the first quarter of 2019.
“Air Canada will continue to evaluate and adjust its route network as required in response to the trajectory of the pandemic, government-imposed travel restrictions and quarantines, and to market and regulatory conditions,” the Montreal-based airline said in a statement.
A 14-day quarantine requirement has been in place in Canada since March 2020, often requiring a passenger to quarantine even when traveling between provinces within the country. Airlines had complained the strict requirement was dampening demand and called for the implementation of COVID-19 testing as a way to ease quarantine rules.
Beginning on Jan. 7 Canada added a testing requirement, but this has come in addition to the quarantine requirement rather than as a replacement.
Any passenger entering Canada must have a negative result from a COVID-19 test taken within 72 hrs. of a scheduled departure. A passenger that receives a negative test result cannot avoid the 14-day quarantine. Canada’s government has stated that it will step up its surveillance efforts to ensure that passengers comply with the requirement.
Canada’s airlines said they were surprised by the latest requirement.
“Since the implementation … of these increased travel restrictions and other measures, in addition to the existing quarantine requirements, we have seen an immediate impact to our close-in bookings and have made the difficult but necessary decision to further adjust our schedule and rationalize our transborder, Caribbean and domestic routes to better reflect expected demand and to reduce cash burn,” Air Canada executive VP and chief commercial officer Lucie Guillemette said.
Air Canada added: “There is very limited visibility on travel demand given changing government restrictions in place around the world and the severity of the restrictions in Canada; these restrictions and concerns about travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as passenger concerns and expectations about the need for certain precautions, such as physical distancing, are severely inhibiting demand … Air Canada cannot predict the full impact or the timing for when conditions improve.”
Photo credit: Joe Pries