Air Canada resumes US flights, will serve fewer than half its destinations this summer
Air Canada has returned to select U.S. airports after a nearly month-long hiatus ahead of a summer travel push that includes new booking flexibility aimed at getting would-be flyers to buy tickets.
The Montreal-based Star Alliance carrier resumed flights to Boston (BOS), Chicago O'Hare (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), New York LaGuardia (LGA), San Francisco (SFO) and Washington Dulles (IAD) on Friday, Air Canada said. The airline suspended all flights to the U.S. for the first time in nearly 80 years -- except when all U.S. flights were grounded after 9/11 -- due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition, Air Canada will roll out a summer schedule with flights to 97 cities around the world this weekend. The schedule features expanded domestic Canada options and both more U.S. and global destinations.
Get Coronavirus travel updates. Stay on top of industry impacts, flight cancellations, and more.
"As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic… our customers are expressing their eagerness to travel, where it is safe to do so” said Lucie Guillemette, chief commercial officer of Air Canada, in a statement. “We are accordingly gradually opening for sale flights for the summer and beyond as we rebuild our network.”
Air Canada had pared back most of its schedule in the face of near-zero demand during the pandemic. The airline has operated less than 10% of its normal schedule since mid-March and will continue to fly to less than half of the cities it served last summer in is new schedule.
In addition, the carrier will retire 79 jets from its fleet due to the crisis. This includes many of the 30 Boeing 767-300ERs in the Air Canada and Rouge fleets, plus some Airbus A319s and its 14 remaining Embraer E190s. The E190s will be replaced by the airline's new Airbus A220-300s, which it still plans to take 14 more of this year.
Related: Air Canada suspends all US flights, likely for first time in nearly 80 years
To entice would-be travelers with concerns about COVID-19, Air Canada is offering booking flexibility through the end of June. Two new options that allow passengers to cancel bookings without a fee become available on June 1: they can either take a voucher with no expiration date, or convert the value of their ticket into Aeroplan Miles with a 65% bonus.
The new flexibility will apply to tickets booked between March 30 and June 30, and for travel through June 30, 2021. Air Canada's previous change policy applies through the end of May.
Related: A complete list of major airline coronavirus change and cancellation policies
The U.S. and Canadian border remains closed to all but essential travel through June 22. This will prohibit most U.S. flyers from boarding an Air Canada flight for at least the next few weeks.
But come June 22, Air Canada plans to significantly expand its typically broad offering of U.S. destinations. One airport where flights will resume is Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA), according to John Potter, president and CEO of Washington National operator the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
Related: What to expect when flying into the United States
Air Canada served National from Montreal (YUL), Ottawa (YOW) and Toronto Pearson (YYZ) prior to the crisis, according to Cirium schedules.
Fellow Canadian carrier Porter Airlines plans to resume operations on June 29 after suspending all flights in March. WestJet has suspended all U.S. flights through June 25.
Related: A rare opportunity to fly Air Canada’s all-business-class ‘Jetz’