Air Canada, WestJet slash US flights to slow coronavirus spread
Air Canada and WestJet are moving to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus by slashing flights to the U.S. and other countries.
Montreal-based Air Canada will suspend service to all but 13 of its 53 U.S. destinations starting April 1, the airline said Wednesday. Airports it will continue to serve are: Boston (BOS), Chicago O'Hare (ORD), Denver (DEN), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR), New York LaGuardia (LGA), Orlando (MCO), San Francisco (SEA), Seattle (SEA), Washington Dulles (IAD) and Washington National (DCA).
Air Canada could make further reductions to its U.S. schedule based on demand or "government edicts," it said. Canadian and U.S. officials have agreed to temporarily close their border to all but cargo and essential travel.
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While the reductions to Air Canada's U.S. flying are drastic, they leave more flights in schedules than some of its competitors. WestJet will suspend all international flights, including those to the U.S., for 30 days beginning March 22.
Air Transat, Porter Airlines and Sunwing Airlines are all halting flights entirely for the duration of the pandemic. Air Transat and Sunwing primarily cater to leisure travelers, while Porter caters to business travelers who want to fly to Toronto's downtown Billy Bishop Airport (YTZ).
Air Canada will also cut its international network of 101 destinations back to just Delhi (DEL), Frankfurt (FRA), Hong Kong (HKG), London Heathrow (LHR), Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Tokyo during April. Domestically in Canada, the airline will cut its network to 40 airports, down from 62.
Related: Porter Airlines to suspend flights until June 1
Airlines around the world are cutting schedules or suspending operations outright. Delta Air Lines will reduce capacity by 70%, Lufthansa has grounded more than 90% of its aircraft and Qantas is suspending all international flying amid other cuts.
“This is obviously a terrible crisis, the most severe we have ever had," said International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general Alexandre de Juniac on Tuesday. The industry organization is calling on governments around the world to provide at least $200 billion in aid to support airlines through the crisis.
Air Canada's cuts, in a way, exemplify how quickly COVID-19 has changed the airline industry. Just over two months ago, the airline feted the roll out of its first Airbus A220 in Montreal, with CEO Calin Rovinescu celebrating the Canadian ingenuity and engineering that went into the new jet that was due to open a "huge possibility of new routes."
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All four of the carrier's A220-300s are scheduled to fly through at least March 20, according to FlightAware.com. Whether they continue to fly once the latest schedule cuts are implemented on April 1 remains to be seen.
Air Canada intends to "incorporate the A220" into its continuing operations, a spokesperson told TPG.