AC Updates May Sked In Response To 737 MAX Grounding

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

Air Canada said today 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 May 31. The carrier anticipates it will cover 98% 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, EVP and Chief Commercial Officer. 

“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 13MAR, 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 return to service 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 1JUL. 

Among the measures taken by Air Canada:

Mitigations

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 intake of recently acquired Airbus A321 aircraft from WOW Air into its fleet.

Working With Partner Airlines

AC 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 Through 30JUN

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 1JUL instead of 24MAY; Vancouver-Boston, which will now start 16JUN instead of 1JUN; and Calgary-Halifax, which will now start 1JUL instead of 18MAY. 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.

Route Suspensions

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 31MAY, but Air Canada remains committed to these routes.

Customer Information

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 on 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 on www.aircanada.com that will be updated as warranted.

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.