Several days after the tragic Ethiopian Airlines accident, and after almost all international civil aviation organizations have progressively closed their airspace, Canada has – at last – done the same via the decision of Transport Canada. What are the immediate implications for Canadian travellers?
Air Canada, WestJet and the Boeing 737 MAX
Air Canada has just announced that it has taken note of this closure of Canadian airspace by Transport Canada.
The airline is immediately complying with Transport Canada’s directive until further notice.
Air Canada has a flexible cancellation and rebooking policy in place for affected customers, including the option of a full refund. We are working to reroute affected customers as soon as possible. However, given the volume of passengers we normally carry on this type of aircraft, averaging 9,000 to 12,000 passengers per day, delays are expected for customers who contact Air Canada service centers. We thank them in advance for their patience.
In addition, customers are advised to check their flight status at aircanada.com before arriving at the airport.
WestJet is doing the same and invites passengers to check the flight status on this page.
We understand why Canada was one of the last to act, given the importance of this aircraft to the daily operations of Air Canada and WestJet… and consequently to the country’s economy.
But other countries did not wait as long, China having decided to close its airspace only a few hours after the accident.
Air Canada currently operates 24 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft while WestJet has 13.
When you look at Air Canada’s fleet of medium-haul aircraft, you can see the extent of the damage done by grounding these 24 aircraft that carry 9,000 to 12,000 passengers a day:
The medium-haul fleet consists of 97 aircraft:
- 15 A321
- 42 A320
- 16 A319
- 24 B737 Max
So a quarter of the medium-haul fleet is now grounded.
The problem is that this type of aircraft was also used for long-haul flights (Hawaii and Europe in particular)… destinations inaccessible to other medium-haul aircraft. It is therefore difficult to replace all these devices on the spot.
In its relationship with the media, Air Canada wanted to be reassuring by indicating that its 24 B737 MAX operate 75 daily flights out of a schedule of 1,600 daily flights and that its fleet is composed of 400 aircraft, including many long-haul aircraft on both the main airline…
…than at Rouge.
So, in order to deal with the situation, here are the measures taken:
- Long-haul aircraft (e.g. A330) will be positioned on routes to Hawaii.
- Other aircraft will be assigned to the Montreal-Martinique / Montreal-Guadeloupe routes, either from the Air Canada or Air Canada Rouge fleet.
- Other routes such as Halifax-London and St John’s-London will be cancelled for the time being (passengers will be rerouted via the Montreal and Toronto hubs).
Passengers with upcoming travel plans are encouraged to contact their travel agents or Air Canada’s call center: priority will be given to those traveling within 72 hours.
If you have flights scheduled in more than 72 hours, I advise you to wait to see the evolution and to follow carefully your reservation for any change.
If your flights are in less than 72 hours, you will unfortunately have to be patient on the Air Canada and WestJet phone lines (1-888-937-8538).
Or try your luck online at this address for Air Canada.
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